US, Turkey to Coordinate Political Transition in Syria

Obama talks to Erdogan. Photo Courtesy of Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violence against civilian areas in the background, US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed a political transition from the embattled Syrian leader in the nation’s civil war. Turkey, a neighbor of Syria, has been very outspoken against the Syrian authorities during its vicious crackdown on what started as a civilian uprising.

A statement from the White House website said Obama and Erdoğan spoke by phone to “coordinate efforts to accelerate a political transition in Syria, which would include the departure of Bashar al-Assad and be responsive to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.”

Specifics were not mentioned in the press statement, although the US has championed sanctions and United Nations condemnations of the Syrian regime. However, the US has repeatedly refused to get involved military in the Syrian conflict.

The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported that senior Turkish official said Obama and Erdoğan discussed what should happen if Assad loses power in Syria. Their hope is that the Syrian National Council and other opposition groups would set up a new government, along with members of the current regime who have not been part of the bloodshed. The two leaders oppose a “power vacuum,” but also want Assad to leave the country once his government falls.

The White House statement said the leaders “shared their growing concerns about the Syrian regime’s ruthless attacks against its own people, most recently in Aleppo, and the deteriorating humanitarian conditions throughout Syria as a result of the regime’s atrocities.”

Turkey has hosted a number of Syrian refugees, and Obama “acknowledged” Turkish generosity in doing so. Said the White House statement of Obama and Erdoğan, “The two pledged to coordinate efforts to assist the growing numbers of displaced Syrians, not only within Syria, but in Turkey and the broader region.”

The phone call won’t be the last conversation between the US and Turkey. The White House also noted that the two leaders “agreed that US and Turkish teams would remain in close contact on ways that Turkey and the United States can work together to promote a democratic transition in Syria.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, July 31, 2012)

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