Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has told Turkish journalists on Friday that Turkey will help Syrian opposition forces with a “train-equip” program alongside the anti-ISIS coalition led by the United States rather than directly sending soldiers to Syria.
He also stressed the US administration agrees with the Turkish government that the embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad must not remain in power.
He said, “The train-equip program starts on May 9. It took some time for the equipment and personnel to be transported. There is no political disagreement or any other obstacles to starting the program. At first, we will have 300 people being trained, later 300 more people will come also. By the end of the year, we will [plan to] train 2,000 people.”
“Not directly sending Turkish soldiers to Syria but taking such actions as advising [the opposition] could be done. There has currently been no decision to send American and Turkish troops to Syria. This is not a decision Turkey and the US could make on their own, but a decision which should be made by the anti-ISIS coalition which includes 60 countries,” he added.
He emphasised, “There is a core group in the coalition” which could be crucial to making such a decision. He believes the two countries could not make a decision related to deploying troops to Syria.
Cavusoglu also said that “We agree with the United States about ‘a Syria without Assad.’ But at the moment, the US’ priority is to fight DEAS [the Arabic acronym for [ISIS]. We need safe havens for people equipped and trained once in a time.”
“We will combat with both the DEAS [ISIS] and the Syrian regime forces. Political pressure on the regime will be increased. We will work to make the parties in the conflict to sit around the table for a political resolution under the Geneva Declaration. A resolution of the conflict without Assad in power is definite. But there are differences about how oust him. There is Iranian and Russian support for the regime. However, Kerry said ‘We are not contemplating a Syria with Assad’,” he added.
The foreign minister, mentioning the Geneva Declaration, also talked about an "action group" conference - now referred to as the Geneva I Conference on Syria - which was held in June 2012 in Geneva, and initiated by then UN peace envoy to Syria Kofi Annan to reach a peaceful resolution to the Syrian civil war. Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, a representative from China, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, and Kofi Annan participated in the conference.
The conference issued a final “communiqué” at the end of its meetings which said, “[The goal is] the establishment of a transitional governing body which can establish a neutral environment in which the transition can take place. That means that the transitional governing body would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”
“It is for the Syrian people to determine the future of the country. All groups and segments of society in Syria must be enabled to participate in a National Dialogue process. That process must not only be inclusive, it must also be meaningful - that is to say, its key outcomes must be implemented,” it added.
Following the Geneva I Conference, the mediators intensively worked to prepare a follow-up meeting, called the Geneva II Conference, which was eventually held in January and February 2014 - in Montreux - with no tangible results.