Turkey can no longer insist on a settlement in Syria without Assad: Turkish deputy PM

Turkey deputy PM Mehmet Simsek at the Davos Economic Forum on 20 January 2016

Turkish deputy PM Mehmet Simsek has said Ankara can no longer insist on a settlement in Syria without President Bashar al-Assad, because “the situation on the ground has changed dramatically”.

Speaking to a panel on Syria and Iraq at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, Simsek said, “As far as our position on Assad is concerned, we think that the suffering of (the) Syrian people and the tragedies, clearly the blame is squarely on Assad. But we have to be pragmatic, realistic.”

Simsek’s words come a week before planned peace talks in Kazakh capital Astana. Turkey had previously insisted that a sustainable solution in Syria would only possible if Assad left office.

Ankara’s change of attitude comes following the defeat of the Syrian opposition in Aleppo and rapprochement with Russia. Ankara, Moscow and Tehran agreed on a ceasefire, which has largely held up, in the run up to Astana.