Updated: August 20, 2016 6:20:17 pm
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday his country is willing to accept a role for Syrian President Bashar Assad during a transitional period but insisted he has no place in Syria’s future.
Speaking to foreign media representatives in Istanbul, the prime minister also said that Turkey would aim to become more of a regional player with regard to Syria in the next six months.
Turkey is one of the main supporters of rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, and hosts more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees. “Could Syria carry Assad in the long-term? Certainly not,” Yildirim said. “The United States knows and Russia knows that Assad does not appear to be someone who can bring (the people) together.”
“We may sit and talk (with him) for the transition. A transition may be facilitated. But we believe that there should be no (Kurdish rebels), Daesh or Assad in Syria’s future,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Turkey, which is battling a Kurdish insurgency, is concerned about the growing power of Syrian Kurdish forces across the border and opposed to any moves toward Kurdish autonomy or independence.
“In the six months ahead of us, we shall be playing a more active role,” Yildirim said. “It means not allowing Syria to be divided along ethnic lines… ensuring that its government is not based on ethnic (divisions).” Yildirim also denied news reports that Russia was seeking to use Turkey’s southern air base of Incirlik for its operations in Syria. The base is currently being used by the US-led coalition against IS.
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“They have no request for Incirlik,” Yildirim said. “I don’t think they have a need for Incirlik. Because they already have two bases in Syria.”
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