Turkey's Erdogan: No Point in Syria Peace Talks While Russian Airstrikes Continue

Erdogan expresses doubt on renewal of Syrian peace talks, accusing Russia of killing children and 'making things easier for the tyrant.'

Tulay Karadeniz, Humeyra Pamuk
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks at a business forum during a visit in Lima, Peru, February 3, 2016.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks at a business forum during a visit in Lima, Peru, February 3, 2016. Credit: Reuters
Tulay Karadeniz, Humeyra Pamuk

REUTERS - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Syrian peace talks in Geneva, which were suspended on Wednesday, were pointless while President Bashar Assad's forces and Russia continued their attacks in the country.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura halted his efforts to conduct the talks after the Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes, advanced against rebel forces north of Aleppo, choking opposition supply lines from Turkey to the city.

"Russia continues to kill people in Syria. Could there be such a peace gathering? Could there be such peace talks?" Erdogan said in a speech in Peru, in comments published on the presidency website.

"In an environment where children are still being killed, such attempts do not have any function apart from making things easier for the tyrant," he said.

De Mistura announced a three-week pause in the Geneva talks, the first attempt in two years to negotiate an end to Syria's war. Another senior UN official said the Russian escalation was the main reason.

Turkey is a main backer of the Syrian opposition and has long argued that there can be no peace in Syria without Assad's removal. Erdogan cast doubt on whether the talks would make meaningful progress even if they resumed.

"They always convene, get together, eat, drink and then leave. Now they are giving a date for end-February. Let's watch. You will see that once it is February 28 they will postpone again," he said at a university in Lima, the Peruvian capital.

Exacerbating refugee crisis

Russian air strikes have killed nearly 1,400 civilians since Moscow started its aerial campaign in support of Assad nearly four months ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on Saturday.

Moscow says there will be no respite in its air campaign, which it says targets "terrorists".

Turkey has warned that Russia's actions risk exacerbating a refugee crisis, just as Ankara is trying to stem the flow of migrants to Europe under an agreement with the European Union.

EU countries on Wednesday approved 3 billion euro ($3.35 billion) in funding to help Turkey improve living conditions for refugees in return for its help ensuring fewer leave for Europe.

Also on offer to Ankara, which wants to revive relations with its European neighbors after years of coolness, is a "re-energized" negotiating process on Turkish membership of the EU. But Erdogan said not enough progress had been made.

"They agreed that Turkey is a key country in solving the migrant crisis ... Our accession process has accelerated. But we still haven't seen the concrete steps that we have been expecting," he said, without elaborating.

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