Turkish foreign policy remains unchanged towards the Syrian regime and there is no possibility of re-establishing relations as long as Bashar al-Assad stays in power, two Turkish officials have told Al Jazeera.
The remarks came on Wednesday after various international media outlets reported a shift in Turkish policy, referring to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s nationally broadcast comments earlier on the same day.
Turkey has long expressed the staunchest opposition to Assad’s rule, saying he should leave the office for the country to be stable again.
“We have normalized our relations with Israel and Russia. I am sure we will go back to normal relations with Syria as well,” Yildirim said.
“We need this [because] in order for counterterrorism efforts to succeed, there has to be stability in Syria and Iraq; and [they] need to adopt government[s] that represent all our brothers and sisters [in Syria and Iraq]. This is inevitable.”
Ankara and Moscow have also been normalizing general trade and economic ties, starting with the lifting of a Russian ban on flights to Turkey, more than eight months after Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane.
Yildirim has been expressing his intention to end disputes with Turkey’s neighbors since he took over the office in May.
‘Assad government illegitimate’
MP Yasin Aktay, a senior member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, told Al Jazeera that Turkey would never establish ties with the “illegitimate Assad government”.
“The prime minister never referred to the Syrian regime or Assad in his speech. He just expressed his intention to eventually re-establish ties when a government representing the will of all Syrian people is formed,” he said.
“Assad’s rule is the reason why Turkish-Syrian relations and Syria itself are in the current state. This will never change until he is gone – and the country will continue to suffer,” he said.
Another Turkish official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Assad does not have the capacity to normalize Syria because he does not represent the Syrian people.
“We hope things will get better and we will formalize our ties with the Syrian people’s government. But we don’t think Bashar al-Assad has the capacity to represent the Syrian people,” he said.