Turkey’s Erdogan urges Saudi, US to join Astana process on Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Saudi Arabia and the US to join the Syria peace process, which began in the Kazakh capital, Astana, in January with the mediation of Tehran, Moscow and Ankara.
“We have worked with Russia and Iran during Astana talks. We are calling for Saudi Arabia and United States to take part in those talks,” Erdogan said in an interview with Portuguese broadcaster RTP late on Thursday.
The Astana talks have brought representatives from the government in Damascus and opposition groups to the negotiating table in a bid to bring an end to the foreign-backed militancy in Syria, which broke out in March 2011.
Four rounds of the negotiations took place on January 23-24, February 15-16, March 14-15 and May 3-4. A fifth round was expected to be held on June 12-13, but has been postponed.
Acting Assistant US Secretary of State Stuart E. Jones and US Ambassador to Kazakhstan George A. Krol were among the US officials, who took part in the Astana discussions.
No solution to Syria, Iraq issues without Iran: Turkey’s Erdogan
Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan underlined Iran’s role in settling regional crises, saying, “You cannot solve issues in Syria and in Iraq without Iran.”
He further voiced his disapproval of what he described as “Persian expansionism,” saying, there were issues on which Ankara “gets along with Iran,” and others on which it does not.
“This does not mean that Turkey has the same approach to Iran as the United States,” he stressed.
Iran is supporting the Damascus government in its fight against terrorism while Turkey sides with militants operating to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Qatar isolation ‘not right’
Additionally, Erdogan expressed his opposition to a blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and its regional allies on Qatar.
“I see that the blockade against Qatar is not right,” he said. ”We did not accept any kind of embargo against Qatar. I have made lots of phone calls with other world leaders to explain the issue to them.”
The Turkish president called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to defuse Persian Gulf tensions before the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Turkey offered to establish base in S Arabia
Erdogan said his country had offered to set up a military base in Saudi Arabia, with King Salman having agreed to evaluate the proposal, but no developments since.
He also noted that the Turkish base in Qatar would serve regional security.