Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday that a political solution to the Syrian conflict is Turkey's top priority. Speaking in Seoul on Friday at the fifth MIKTA Foreign Ministers' Meeting, an informal cooperative body created by Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and Australia, Minister Çavuşoğlu highlighted the fact that over the last five years, more than 300,000 people have lost their lives in Syria. Stressing that a successful peace can only be achieved through a legitimate political transition on the basis of the aspirations of the Syrian people, Çavuşoğlu said that the Geneva Declaration constitutes a roadmap for such a transition.
Stating that the Assad regime will only engage in meaningful negotiations if it feels enough pressure, he underlined that currently there is no pressure from the international community. "[Bashar] Assad lost his legitimacy a long time ago. That is not contested. He cannot take part in any transitional phase. As long as he stays in power, security and stability in Syria will remain elusive," Çavuşoğlu said, speaking at the session of the MIKTA Foreign Ministers' Meeting, which discussed regional and global issues.
The foreign minister said that just focusing on extremism and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) may seem convenient to some counties, but it is a strategic miscalculation. Çavuşoğlu emphasized that the threat of extremism will not go away unless the root cause is addressed. "Currently, the counterterrorism narrative has taken over the agenda in many countries. This also ignores what caused this situation in the first place. It was Assad and the people around him. The regime plays for time by using the counter-extremism narrative. It is also exploiting the fact that, currently, all attention is focused on fighting ISIS. Assad is trying to present himself as a partner in the fight against extremism, and we should not allow it." he added.
Touching on Turkey's fight against ISIS, Çavuşoğlu pointed out that Turkey shares an almost 1,300-kilometer-long border with Syria and Iraq, and ISIS constitutes a direct threat to Turkey's national security. "From our perspective, the situation on the ground is getting worse. We maintain our view that the coalition's air operations will not be sufficient to eliminate ISIS. Bringing stability back to Syria requires a comprehensive, swift and action-oriented strategy. To fight ISIS and the growing threat of sectarianism and extremism in the region, there is a need for a non-sectarian, inclusive and representative government in Damascus." he said.
Reminding the other ministers that the Syrian National Coalition has been recognized by 114 countries as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, Çavuşoğlu said that the coalition negotiated with the regime in Geneva-II. Defining the coalition as the only political opposition body linked with the ground, Çavuşoğlu said that without the coalition any political process in Syria will face a lack of legitimacy.