BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkey moots Sharaa as interim leader

  • Sharaa, center, welcomes an Iranian delegation to Damascus in August.

BEIRUT: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has floated Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa as a possible leader of a future Syrian transition government to replace President Bashar Assad.

In comments made on Turkish public television, TRT, Davutoglu said Sharaa is a “is a man of reason” who does not have any blood on his hands.

“Farouq al-Sharaa is a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria. Nobody knows the [Syrian] system better than he,” Davutoglu said Saturday.

The comments suggest progress in talks by regional leadership at negotiating a political solution to the increasingly militarized conflict.

The suggestion is even more significant given Turkey’s role in supporting the rebel Free Syrian Army and hosting of the external opposition, the Syrian National Council, who are opposed to dialogue with the current regime.

Members of Syria’s internal opposition, which advocates dialogue and opposes foreign intervention, recently met with representatives from Syrian ally Russia seeking to start talks on a political transition to oust Assad.

Turkey has taken part in talks in an Egyptian “Quartet” initiative to bring Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Syrian-ally Iran together in an attempt to provide a political solution to the crisis. So far, however, Saudi Arabia has not joined the talks.

Damascus is said to be eyeing a power sharing proposal that would see a transitional power-sharing government including members of the current regime, along with members of the internal opposition, communists and the Muslim Brotherhood, but excluding external opposition figures.

However, some among the external opposition have voiced doubts about President Assad’s sincerity in engaging with the plan, accusing the regime of buying time.

Davutoglu said that the Syrian opposition “is inclined to accept Sharaa” as the future leader of the Syrian interim administration.

However Turkey-based SNC spokesman affiliated with the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Sarmini, scoffed at the suggestion, saying Turkey had not consulted with the SNC about the proposal.

“It is the Syrian people who can suggest who a transitional president might be – not Turkey. We can’t say who it will be,” he said via telephone.

Sharaa, the most visible Sunni Muslim figure in the minority Alawite-led government, is trusted by the regime and was foreign minister for 15 years before becoming vice president in 2006.

Following persistent rumors he had defected – vigorously denied by Damascus – Sharaa appeared in photos of an August meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who was on an unscheduled visit to the capital.

Following the meeting Sharaa told Al-Hayat newspaper he “welcomes” the “regional initiative,” urging dialogue and encouraging Iran’s involvement in talks.

Some opposition members insist that Sharaa is under a form of house arrest.

Davutoglu said Saturday he was convinced that the Syrian vice president was still in Syria.

A senior Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star that Turkey is committed to finding political solution to the crisis.

Another political source familiar with talks said while Iran was sending “mixed messages,” it had responded “positively” to the suggestion of Sharaa as a possible interim leader.

“[Sharaa] is considered legitimate. He is respected in the regime, he has had no role in the killing and he already has a constitutional role,” the source said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 08, 2012, on page 8.
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