BELGRADE – The Syrian conflict has now become a “proxy war” between the two Cold War superpowers, believes Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Numan Kurtulmus, who warned that that the conflict could escalate beyond the Middle East.
“If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war,” Kurtulmus told the state’s Anadolu news agency, adding that the world was “on the brink of the beginning of a large regional or global war.”
Kurtulmus described the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad as a “pawn” in the conflict, and urged it to seek peace, claiming that there would be no way to overcome the alliance of forces that opposes it.
The politician insisted that Assad has no place in any future political system in the country, as the opposition will “not negotiate with a bloody dictatorship.”
Turkey has been one of the leading advocates of Assad’s removal since the conflict, which has resulted in more than 400,000 deaths, broke out in 2011.
But Russia, a staunch Syria ally, which has intervened in the conflict at the request of Damascus, has refused to contemplate Assad’s unilateral removal unless Syrian people decide so.
In an interview with French television broadcast on Wednesday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that the Syrian president would agree to develop a new, more democratic and inclusive constitution, and overhaul the political system – but only if he was allowed to stand in a future election.
“If the people do not vote for President Assad, there will be a democratic change of power, but without the help of armed intervention from outside and under strict international control, under UN supervision. I do not understand who could find this proposal unacceptable. It is a democratic solution to the question of power in the country,” said Putin.
Meanwhile, calls in the West have grown louder for Russia and Syria to be punished for alleged war crimes, pertaining to the ongoing battle between government and rebel forces in the key city of Aleppo, in the north of Syria.
French President Francois Hollande called for the International Criminal Court to investigate Russia, and curtailed his involvement in a planned diplomatic visit to France by Putin, who has since “rescheduled” his trip. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has also urged punishment, echoing similar accusations from senior US officials.
A proposed joint cooperation deal between Moscow and Washington was scuppered last month, following a US airstrike on a Syrian army unit, which Pentagon says was accidental, and a bombing of a UN aid convoy, which most Western powers insist was carried out by Russia, which denies responsibility.
Top diplomats from Russia, the US, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Iran will meet in Lausanne in Switzerland this weekend to try and hammer out a new framework for peace.