US urges Turkey not to normalize ties with Assad regime, rejects military op into Syria
The United States does not support normalization with Syria’s Assad regime, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“When it comes to the Assad regime, we’re very clear. We don’t support normalization,” Blinken said in an interview with Al Arabiya on Sunday, in response to a question over Turkey’s rapprochement with the Syrian government.
Reminding the United Nations’ proposal of a “step-by-step” process leading to the implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions over the Syria, Blinken said Washington support the UN’s formula, seeing it as a “political way forward”.
“Unfortunately, the Assad regime does not and has refused to engage in that process. Unless and until it does, it’s very hard to see how you can move forward,” he said.
Ankara is trying to mend relations with Damascus that have deteriorated a decade ago following a civil war broke in Syria in 2011.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Erdogan said he proposed to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to form a trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria to accelerate diplomacy between Turkey and the Assad regime. Following Erdogan’s move, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Syrian counterpart Ali Mahmud Abbas met in Moscow late December with the participation of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for a first high-level contact between the two neighboring countries in 11 years. Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said a tripartite foreign ministers meeting between Turkey, Russia and Syria would take place in the second half of January, but no such meeting yet to be held.
After the defense ministers’ meeting in Moscow, the United States expressed discontent over Turkey-Syria rapprochement, calling on Ankara “to carefully consider the atrocities that the Assad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people over the past 10 years".
In response to Al Arabiya’s another question regarding Turkey’s “possible” military operation into Northern Syria, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reminded that they’ve urged everyone “to try to calm the waters”.
“What we don’t need, I don’t think what anyone needs is a military incursion in Northern Syria,” he said.
“That risks, of course, doing tremendous damage to civilians and innocent people. It actually potentially would disrupt the efforts to continue to keep Daesh at bay and take the focus off of that, where it needs to be. And so it’s not, frankly, in anyone’s interests,” Blinken said.
According to Blinken, Turkey has legitimate security interests.
“But those interests can be dealt with effectively without, I think, a military intervention,” he said.
Blinken on Monday has arrived in Egypt, the first stop of his three-day visit to the Middle East that will comprise also Israel and Palestine.