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Resetting Turkey’s Syria policy

Ankara is trying to regain its lost influence over Syria with a radical change in policy, but its past mistakes make that a difficult challenge.
Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildrim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey July 19, 2016.    REUTERS/Umit Bektas  - RTSINN0

Months of speculation about Turkey inching toward a radical change in its Syrian policy have finally ended. On Aug. 20, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim officially announced Ankara’s new policy, which aims to settle the crisis with the involvement of all the key players, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This about-face had been in the making since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted a year ago that a transition period in Syria could include Assad. Prior to that, Ankara had taken the hard-line position that there was no room for Assad in any shape or form in Syria's future.

Erdogan made his remarks last September, a day after holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. That was two months before Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet that had strayed into Turkish airspace — a charge denied by Moscow — while on a bombing mission against anti-regime forces supported by Ankara in Syria. The incident further reduced what little remaining influence Turkey had over Syria following a series of policy mistakes.

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