Turkish opposition leader reverses course to reject dialogue with Assad

Dialogue with Syrian President Bashar Assad is not an option after Syrian government forces killed seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian in shelling on Monday, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told HaberTürk in an interview.

The CHP leader’s statement marks a reversal in the opposition’s stance, which had demanded that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) enter talks with the Damascus government to bring nearly nine years of civil war to an end.

Turkey has backed Syrian rebels since the beginning of the conflict, and maintains 12 observation posts in Idlib province, where opposition fighters hold out against government forces. It was in Idlib that the Turkish soldiers were killed on Monday, prompting retaliatory strikes on more than 50 Syrian government positions.

“Turkey has suffered serious harm, and what’s more, they say we informed them of the coordinates,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Turkish statements that they had passed on details of troop movements to Russia, a main backer of Assad.

“Our soldiers have been martyred, this is no routine matter. This is unforgivable,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The CHP leader said the matter should be discussed at a closed session in parliament, as suggested by his alliance partner Meral Akşener, the leader of the centre-right opposition Good Party.

“It was a very logical suggestion, and the facts of what is happening in Syria should be discussed in detail at a closed session,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “I have already said that Turkey was heading for trouble by leaving the Foreign Ministry out of foreign policymaking. Now foreign policy is being set entirely by the presidency, with none of (the ministry’s) experience.”

Kılıçdaroğlu said that due to the urgent situation in Idlib he was postponing plans to disclose information on the political wing of the Gülen religious movement, which the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt in 2016. The CHP has criticised the government for refusing to investigate the movement’s political connections despite conducting far-reaching investigations in state institutions.