Turkey’s Erdogan puts Syria, Iraq on G20 leaders’ agenda

ANKARA: Turkey wants world leaders to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Iraq at a G20 summit this weekend and is ready to take “stronger steps” in the region following its general election, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.


Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies (G20), including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia and Brazil, are to meet on Sunday and Monday in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya to discuss global economic issues.

But Turkey, a NATO member which has taken in more than 2 million refugees from Syria and Iraq and faces a growing threat of spillover from the conflicts, wants the heads of state to also discuss the unrest there.

“Our inclusion of issues of Iraq and Syria to the G20 agenda is not against the primary objectives of the platform,” Erdogan told a business meeting in the capital Ankara.

The ruling AK Party, founded by Erdogan, regained the parliamentary majority it had lost just five months earlier in an election a week and a half ago. He said that meant Turkey could now act with more authority in the region.

“The result of the Nov. 1 election completely removed political uncertainty in Turkey and gave us the opportunity to take stronger steps on regional issues,” Erdogan said, without elaborating.

Turkey has been a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, arguing lasting peace is impossible without his departure. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey would respond by air and land to threats from Syria and that a new strategy was needed.

Russia, which supports Assad, wants the Syrian government and opposition to agree on launching a constitutional reform process of up to 18 months, followed by early presidential elections, a draft document obtained by Reuters showed on Tuesday.

The proposal, drawn up before international talks on Syria in Vienna this week, does not rule out Assad’s participation in the election, something Ankara and the Syrian leader’s other foes are likely to oppose.

Turkey is also expected to use its presidency of the G20 to try to persuade allies including Washington against giving U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish rebels a greater role in the fight against Islamic State militants.

Turkey, which opened its air bases in July to the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, sees advances by the Syrian Kurds as a threat to its national security, fearing they could stoke separatism among its own Kurds.

“Anyone ferrying wood to the Syrian fire will find themselves burning. It is a friendly warning,” Erdogan said.