Turkey, Syria cement security cooperation, solidarity for Iraq's stability
On a one-day visit to Damascus, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday held talks focused on the two neighbors' ongoing cooperation against the terrorist PKK. The two leaders also discussed the government formation crisis in Iraq. Erdogan and Assad were joined by their foreign ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu and Walid al-Moallem, as well as Turkish Ambassador to Syria Omer Onhon. Assad has already shown his determination on the PKK issue, Erdogan told reporters before leaving Ankara, adding, "I believe that Mr. Assad will continue this determination during the months and years to come." Asked about the lack of a government in Iraq for the last seven months, Erdogan stressed that forming one is a task for the Iraqis alone. Ruling out any interference in the process by Ankara, Erdogan added that Turkey would assist ongoing efforts only if the Iraqi side seeks such help. "The continued ambiguity there is troubling for neighboring countries, just as it is troubling for the Iraqi people," he said. "Since we share a very long border and have strong historical and cultural ties, we regret the continued trouble there." Saying that Turkey feels Iraqis' joy and sadness as its own, Erdogan stressed that Ankara would like to see a national reconciliation government in Bagdad. Turning to the issue of regional cooperation between Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Erdogan said, "There are positive developments in this process. But besides all of these efforts, the strengthening of political, economic, commercial and cultural ties between Turkey and Syria achieved during our government is a process that benefits the administrations and peoples of both countries." Pledging to further boost relations with Syria, he added, "Turkey and Syria are two key countries for promoting peace, security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East."