U.S., Turkey discuss transition away from Assad
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan he had discussed a transition of power in Syria away from President Bashar al-Assad during a four-hour meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.
Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents, pushing for a more comprehensive strategy that includes Assad’s removal from power.
“On Syria, we discussed … not only to deny ISIL a safe haven and roll back and defeat them, but also strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime,” Biden told a joint news conference with Erdogan.
Biden is expected to seek to soothe tensions that have emerged between the two NATO members, traditionally strong allies, over Turkey’s reluctance to play a major role in the fight against the jihadists who have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria.
So far, Turkey’s sole contribution to the coalition has been allowing a contingent of Iraqi peshmerga Kurdish fighters to transit Turkish soil to fight IS militants for the Syrian border town of Kobane.
Turkey has set several conditions for playing a greater role in the coalition.
It wants a clear coordinated strategy to overthrow Assad, a major training and equipping programme for the anti-regime Free Syrian Army and a security zone, backed by a no-fly area, to be set up in northern Syria along the Turkish border.
However U.S. officials indicated in the run-up to the trip that while they are prepared to discuss a security zone it was not an idea that was currently on the table.
Biden and Erdogan were involved in a highly-publicised spat last month after the U.S. vice president suggested Ankara had changed its Syria policy after realising it had encouraged the growth of ISIS.