|Turkey turning to Iran, Russia to tackle Syrian crisis: analysts||
TEHRAN – Turkey is turning to regional powers Iran and Russia, backers of the Syrian government, to help it deal with the crisis in Syria that has spilled across its border with deadly shelling and a flood of refugees, analysts say, AFP reported on Tuesday.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the first signs last week that Ankara may be shifting the way it approaches the 19-month conflict after holding what local media called a “surprise meeting” with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Baku on October 16.
Ankara has proposed to Iran establishing a set of trilateral mechanisms involving key regional players to face the Syrian crisis raging at their doorsteps.
“This (trilateral) mechanism might involve Turkey, Egypt and Iran,” Erdogan said. “A second mechanism could involve Turkey, Russia, Iran. A third could be made up of Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”
“This represents a significant shift in position by Ankara,” Semih Idiz wrote in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News.
“It was no more than a few months ago that Ankara looked coolly on any discussion on Syria which involved Russia and Iran due to their unconditional backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” he argued.
Sami Kohen, a veteran columnist of liberal daily Milliyet, said that Ankara began to seek an “exit strategy” after the policies pursued so far by the government pushed Turkey to become part of the problem.
Kohen added, “While on the one side Ankara is keeping on its policy of showdown against Syria, on the other side it is signaling that it wants to be involved in efforts for a peaceful solution.”
A Turkish foreign ministry official contacted by AFP stated that Turkey has never ruled out regional initiatives, noting its support for regional quartet talks proposed by Egypt and involving the other two key players Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey and Iran have diverging views on the Syrian crisis but recent weeks have seen an intensive diplomatic exchange between the two countries, resulting in both Ankara and Tehran’s backing a ceasefire plan floated by international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday starting this week.
Turkey is also talking to Russia despite a recent diplomatic row sparked after Ankara grounded a Syria-bound plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on suspicion that it had military cargo.
Turkey has not yet said what exactly the suspect cargo contained, but both countries have preferred to downplay the incident and denied there was a crisis in their trade-based relationship.
“I think Turkey’s leaders are rediscovering the idea of having zero problems with neighbors,” a Western diplomat, familiar with Ankara’s efforts, told AFP.
“Turks have come to the conclusion that they need to do something as regards Russia and Iran. They have realized Turkey is not alone and even if it were a super power, Turkey has to have friends.”
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