Ankara is doing “everything possible” to facilitate negotiations between Moscow and Syrian opposition groups to halt the bloodshed in Aleppo, Turkey’s premier said in an interview published Wednesday after meeting President Vladimir Putin. “We are doing everything possible to bring about contacts between opposition representatives and Russia and have achieved very good success on this score,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
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“If any consensus reached is turned into a signed document then that would be to everyone’s benefit. Now is the time when you need to get results,” Yildirim said in comments translated into Russian. Yildirim met with Putin on Tuesday in the Kremlin as Moscow and Ankara continue moves to put a furious row over Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last year behind them.
A source told AFP in late November that Russian representatives had met with Syrian rebels in Turkey with Ankara’s mediation to discuss the possibility of a truce in the divided city of Aleppo, but they failed to reached a deal. Syrian government forces have since reclaimed more of the rebel stronghold in eastern Aleppo in a sweeping advance that has drawn condemnation from the West.
Russia is pushing for a total rebel withdrawal from Aleppo before any ceasefire can come into force, while Ankara is angling for an immediate halt to the fighting. Russia and Turkey are on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict with Moscow flying a bombing campaign to back up leader Bashar al-Assad and Ankara supporting groups that oppose him. Yildirim softened Ankara’s rhetoric on Assad’s future after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked Moscow’s ire by claiming Turkey intervened in the Syria conflict solely to topple Assad.
Turkish forces are pressing on with a three-month operation inside Syria in support of anti-Assad forces to take territory along its border. The operation is “in no way connected to what is happening in Aleppo and in no way connected to changing the regime in Syria,” Yildirim said. “Undoubtedly, the fate of the many ethnic groups represented in Syria is much more important than the fate of one person in particular — Bashar al-Assad,” he said.