Top Turkish diplomat set for Syria talks in Moscow, Washington

Top Turkish diplomat set for Syria talks in Moscow, Washington

Feridun Sinirlioğlu (Photo: AA, Tolga Adanalı)

January 09, 2013, Wednesday/ 16:51:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu departed for Russia on Wednesday for a series of talks regarding the Middle East, including ways to end the violence in Syria and a political transition in the war-torn country.

Sinirlioğlu will also travel to the United States next week to discuss Syria and other issues, according to a Turkish official who spoke to Today's Zaman on Wednesday.

Sinirlioğlu is due to meet with Russia's deputy foreign minister and Vladimir Putin's special envoy to the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, during his two-day visit on Jan. 9-10, according to a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

The statement said that Sinirlioğlu would discuss the latest developments in the region, particularly in Syria.

The official, who spoke to Today's Zaman on the condition of anonymity, stated that Sinirlioğlu would also travel to the US next week for talks with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on Middle East issues, including the Syrian crisis, in Washington on Jan. 14-16. The official also added that Sinirlioğlu would not only discuss the Syrian crisis but also many other issues concerning the Middle East.

Regarding Sinirlioğlu's visit to Moscow, the same official added that the visit was a follow-up to discussions held when Bogdanov visited Turkey on Nov. 22. “The talks will be the continuation of the new ideas' process between Turkey and Russia over Syria that emerged in talks between Putin and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” said the official.

Last month during his visit to Turkey, Putin said that the Turkish side had presented new ideas on Syria during the talks, but neither Turkish nor Russian officials have so far disclosed what these ideas consisted of.

Sinirlioğlu's talks in Moscow and Washington come as the UN envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, prepares to meet with Bogdanov and Burns in Geneva later this week. Russia's Interfax agency quoted Bogdanov as saying that he will meet with Brahimi and Burns in Geneva on Friday.

Last week, a senior Turkish diplomatic official was quoted as saying that Ankara is planning to present “tangible proposals” to Russia on Syria during Sinirlioğlu's visit to find ways to halt the 22-month violence in the country that has now left more than 60,000 dead.

The official added that Ankara's new proposal on Syria will be presented to Moscow during talks with Bogdanov, the Anatolia news agency reported last week.

Anatolia said 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. 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.

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.

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.

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