Turkey to present ‘tangible proposals’ to Russia on Syria

January 04, 2013, Friday/ 16:51:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A senior Turkish diplomatic official has said that Ankara is planning to present “tangible proposals” to Russia on Syria to find ways to halt the 21-month violence in the country that has now left more than 60,000 dead.

Ankara's new proposal on Syria will be presented to Moscow later this month during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, the official said.

The diplomatic official added that during ongoing talks, Russia has shown understanding that a transitional government in Syria is impossible with Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad included in the administration.

The diplomatic source noted that Russian officials say they will avoid urging Assad to step down and that as a matter of principle, they cannot ask a head of state to quit. Turkish officials will travel to Moscow later this month to discuss ways to end the violence in Syria and a political transition in the war-torn country.   

Turkey and Russia have been at odds over the Syrian crisis, with Ankara leading calls for Assad's departure and Moscow favoring an Assad-led transition. But there have been signs lately that Russia might drop its insistence on Assad and support a transition process that will not involve the divisive leader.

“We will present tangible proposals to Russia on Syria,” the Turkish official said.

The official said that Turkey has a very long border with Syria and that instability in Turkey's southern neighbor becomes a national security issue for Turkey.  

Turkey's new proposal will follow earlier failed formulas suggested by Ankara to Moscow. In the most recent proposal, Turkey suggested a plan to Russia for an orderly transition in Syria following the departure of the current regime, which Ankara expects to happen in the first few months of 2013.

The earlier proposal was discussed when Putin visited Ankara last month. Putin has said that the Turkish side presented new ideas on Syria during the talks, but neither Turkish nor Russian officials have so far disclosed what these ideas consisted of.

Turkey talking to Israel, sees change in position

The same Turkish diplomatic official also confirmed that Ankara is holding diplomatic talks with Israel despite tensions between the two nations.

“We are holding talks with Israel,” the same diplomatic official told the state-run Anatolia news agency. He said officials are looking to see if Israel's position has changed or not. He added that Israel does not insist on maintaining the “same position” of refusing compromise in the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Turkish-Israeli relations were badly damaged after Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara ship in the eastern Mediterranean to breach the Israeli-imposed embargo in Gaza. Eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish American were killed during the raid. Turkey continues to demand an apology, compensation for families of the victims and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. Israel has only expressed regret over the killings and says its soldiers acted in self-defense.

The diplomatic source said there could be progress in relations between the two countries after elections in Israel in two weeks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu earlier confirmed that Turkey had talks with Israel through diplomatic channels to revive bilateral ties but reiterated that reconciliation is not possible until Ankara's demands are met by the Israeli side.

Syria's PYD gets orders from PKK

The official also claimed that the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has established a presence in northern Syria and is widely believed to be linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), is receiving orders from the Kandil Mountains, referring to the militant leadership of the PKK in Iraq on the Iran border. The official dismissed claims that Turkey has differences with Syrian opposition fighters with respect to the PYD.



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