Erdogan: Syria must have a future without Assad
The U.N. Geneva peace conference must aim to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power due to his culpability for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, Turkey’s Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Tokyo on Tuesday.
“In Geneva II, we must make sure that... all the measures will not fail...so that we can (bring) in an era without Bashar al-Assad,” the Turkish leader said, referring to the Geneva conference scheduled for January 22 this month in Switzerland, Agence France Presse reported.
After nearly three years of battle, the Syrian conflict is estimated to have taken more than 130,000 lives according to activists, and has forced millions to flee their homes, resulting in a widespread regional refugee crisis.
“A person who has allowed that to happen still remaining at the top of the country cannot be accepted,” Erdogan said of Assad in Tokyo, according to AFP.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already begun sending out invitations to the so-called Geneva II peace talks, but Assad's key regional ally Iran has not yet been offered a place at the negotating table, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told AFP.
Iran's non-involvement in the Geneva talks could help pave the way for the Syrian opposition group National Coalition to participate.
The 30 countries already invited to Geneva include Saudi Arabia, a major financial and military backer of the Syrian rebels, as well as the five U.N. Security Council permanent members -- and Syria’s neighbours Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.
“In the Geneva I there were several issues that were taken up and in the Geneva II we will make sure that these will not fail.... It is very important that Japan takes part in this,” Erdogan said in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Despite a key opposition group - the Syrian National Council - having already announced its boycott of the talks, the National Colaition is said to be still edciding whether or not to attend. On Tuesday, headed by newly re-elected leader Ahmad Jarba, the group will discuss Geneva, according to AFP.
Regarding Tehran's role in the talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due to meet on January 13 to mull over what role Iran could play in ending the Syrian conflict, Haq added.