U.S., Turkey discuss transition away from Assad

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) meets with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan at Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul Nov. 22, 2014.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) meets with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan at Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul Nov. 22, 2014.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan he had discussed a transition of power in Syria away from President Bashar al-Assad during a four-hour meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.

Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) insurgents, pushing for a more comprehensive strategy that includes Assad’s removal from power.

“On Syria, we discussed … not only to deny ISIL a safe haven and roll back and defeat them, but also strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime,” Biden told a joint news conference with Erdogan.

Biden is expected to seek to soothe tensions that have emerged between the two NATO members, traditionally strong allies, over Turkey’s reluctance to play a major role in the fight against the jihadists who have captured swathes of Iraq and Syria.

So far, Turkey’s sole contribution to the coalition has been allowing a contingent of Iraqi peshmerga Kurdish fighters to transit Turkish soil to fight IS militants for the Syrian border town of Kobane.

Turkey has set several conditions for playing a greater role in the coalition.

It wants a clear coordinated strategy to overthrow Assad, a major training and equipping programme for the anti-regime Free Syrian Army and a security zone, backed by a no-fly area, to be set up in northern Syria along the Turkish border.

However U.S. officials indicated in the run-up to the trip that while they are prepared to discuss a security zone it was not an idea that was currently on the table.

Biden and Erdogan were involved in a highly-publicised spat last month after the U.S. vice president suggested Ankara had changed its Syria policy after realising it had encouraged the growth of ISIS.


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