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Iran Press TV

US strategic partner, not enemy: Turkey's PM

Iran Press TV

Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:33PM

Turkey's prime minister has described the United States as a "strategic partner" and not the enemy of his country despite Ankara's anger at Washington for not extraditing US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it blames for last month's failed military coup.

"There can be ups and downs in the two countries' relations (but) we need to remove elements that harm our relations," Binali Yildirim told reporters in Istanbul, referring to Gulen.

Washington has so far refused to extradite Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the mid-July botched military coup in the country, saying it needs evidence of his involvement in the failed putsch.

At least 246 people were killed and more than 2,100 others sustained injuries when an army faction, using hijacked helicopters and tanks, clashed with government troops and people on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul on July 15 in an attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

Ankara blames Gulen for orchestrating the coup, an allegation the cleric has repeatedly dismissed and warned that the blame game could be a ploy by the ruling Justice and Development Party to cement its grip on power.

Turkey has launched a sweeping crackdown on alleged coup plotters.

Turkey-Egypt ties

In his Saturday remarks, the Turkish prime minister said that Ankara seeks to normalize its ties with Egypt.

Relations between Ankara and Cairo have soured since Egypt's first democratically-elected president and a close ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup led by the former defense minister and incumbent president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in 2013.

"We think we need to develop economic and cultural ties with Egypt as countries that use the two sides of the Mediterranean," Yildirim said.

However, he said that high-level relations would not be repaired overnight.

"We think we need to start from somewhere," he said.

Turkey to be 'more active' on Syria

Touching on the Syrian crisis, Yildirim pledged that Turkey would play a "more active role" in addressing the conflict in the war-ravaged Arab country in the next six months to prevent Syria from being divided.

"We say the bloodshed needs to stop. Babies, children, innocent people should not die. That's why Turkey will be more active in trying to stop the danger getting worse in the next six months, compared with before," Yildirim said.

The Turkish premier also said that his country is willing to accept a role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a transitional period in Syria, but insisted he has no place in the Arab country's future.

Yildirim further expressed optimism that Iran, Persian Gulf Arab states, Russia and the US could work jointly to find a solution to more than five years of conflict in Syria.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The United Nations estimates that over 400,000 people have so far been killed in the conflict.

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