Faced with tough choices, Turkey may play by Russia’s rules | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Faced with tough choices, Turkey may play by Russia’s rules

A deal on the Syrian Constitutional Committee is expected to be signed in Geneva on December 18. Russian, Turkish and Iranian top diplomats are due to hold a meeting as well. Ahead of the talks, officials in Ankara made an important statement. They do not rule out a change in Tukey‘s stance on Syrian President Bashar Assad, if he is reelected in transparent and democratic elections, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The biggest problem was the formation of a civil group, which will account for one-third of the Constitutional Committee, Yuri Barmin, an expert with the Russian International Affairs Council, explained to the paper. "There is the government delegation, the opposition delegation, and one delegation should consist of representatives from civil society. There were some problems with that, because the parties were unable to come to terms on specific individuals. Naturally, the Syrian government tried to make sure that its candidates are in the group, while the opposition rejected them," he pointed out. Another problem was that Damascus refused to send delegations even to technical negotiations in Geneva. "Assad’s representatives openly said they were not going to discuss the constitutional process in Geneva, because this is a domestic affair. That, of course, sent the wrong signals to the global community," the expert added. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a recent interview that, if Assad won transparent, democratic and internationally recognized elections in Syria, Ankara would consider all options for cooperation. According to Turkish political scientist Kerim Has, the top diplomat’s remark raises questions, which are increasingly difficult to answer. On the one hand, no radical changes in Turkey’s stance on Syria can be expected, he told the paper. On the other hand, it is apparent that the Turkish political elite is in search of some tactics, if the situation comes to an impasse. If Turkey’s dependence on Russia grows, and relations with the US continue to deteriorate, Ankara will have to play by Moscow’s rules in the region, which is strategically important for Turkey. On the other hand, free and democratic elections in Syria are unlikely in the near future, while the regional situation might change substantially, the expert noted.