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Turkish President Says Syria's Assad Must Go

RFE/RL April 25, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says there will be no end to the fighting in Syria until President Bashar al-Assad gives up power.

Erdogan told Reuters in an interview in Ankara on April 25 that "Syria should be liberated from Assad so that a solution could emerge" that would end the six-year-old war in the country.

"Assad killed hundreds of thousands of people and I have 3 million refugees in my country, 1.5 million refugees are currently in Lebanon, and there are about 1 million refugees in Jordan and these people have fled their motherlands" because of the Syrian ruler, Erdogan said.

Erdogan also said that "we can no longer speak about a solution with Assad or our efforts will be in vain."

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who has supported Assad with military strikes since 2015 -- told him he is "not an advocate for Assad, I'm not his lawyer."

Russia and Iran are Assad's two biggest foreign supporters and have worked with Syrian troops against the opposition that is fighting to oust the Syrian leader.

Turkey and a multinational coalition led by the United States has mainly supported an umbrella opposition group known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

However, Turkey also has fought against Syrian Kurdish fighters that are battle against both Assad's regime and Islamic State (IS) militants -- with the latest such attack being Turkish air strikes on April 25 that targeted the headquarters of Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northeastern Syria.

Those attack prompted the U.S. State Department on April 25 to voice "deep concerns," with Washington noting that Turkey did not consult the coalition before carrying out the strikes.

Erdogan on April 25 said that "right now Putin, [U.S. President Donald] Trump, us, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, we have all assumed an active role in the effort to create a solution in Syria. We can get together and we can help the people of Syria to make up their own minds."

He also insisted the IS group would not replace Assad and that there were "many ideal names who can be the next leader [of Syria]."

Erdogan said he will discuss Syria with Trump during a meeting scheduled for mid-May.

"We are going to talk about these aspects and we are going to invite them to take the next step forward with us so that the fate of Syria can be identified by the people of Syria," Erdogan said.

Syria's conflict began in 2011 as a civil war. Now, with international forces drawn into the conflict, there are several opposition groups and Islamic extremists who are fighting against Assad's forces and against each other.

At least 250,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has caused the world's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/syria-turkey-erdogan- assad-must-go/28451708.html

Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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