Turkey is growing increasingly frustrated with Russia’s insistence that President Bashar al-Assad should stay, and Ankara is intensifying pressure on Moscow to stop propping up the Damascus regime.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that it is time for Russia to drop support for Mr. Assad, accusing of Moscow of failing to take the necessary steps to stop breaches in the Syrian ceasefire.
Turkey and Russia worked for months this year to secure the fragile ceasefire in Syria, with only little success. Turkey’s long-standing demand that Mr. Assad must go is at odds with Russian military presence in Syria, which is to make sure that the Syria regime does not fall apart.
On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also called on Russia to join the U.S. in punishing the Assad regime over the chemical attack in Idlib countryside. He welcomed the missile strike on a Syrian regime air base but said it is not enough.
In an interview just hours before the U.S. military action against Syria, Mr. Erdogan said he was saddened to see that his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, is still undecided as to who is behind the chemical attack. The Turkish president said Ankara is ready to help in any way if the U.S. decided to hit Syria.
In a separate speech, Turkish foreign minister said Turkey is not in a position to choose between the U.S. and Russia, a statement designed to signal that Ankara is not distancing itself from Moscow by welcoming U.S. strikes in Syria.
Mr. Cavusoglu said the U.S. strikes were on the Syrian soil, not a Russian one, and that Turkey’s position is about Syria, not Russia.
Negotiating ceasefire with Russia and Iran on the one hand while trying to get rid of the Assad regime on the other put Turkey between a rock and a hard place.
Turkey aligned with Russia in the past year because it viewed Moscow as the only real player in Syria. With increasing U.S. presence in Syria, Ankara may shift its alliance and join on board with the U.S. It is yet not clear if the U.S. will continue to make efforts to remove Mr. Assad.
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