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Turkey rejects Kerry's calls for dialogue with Assad

The Turkish government has responded to US top diplomat John Kerry's apparent willingness to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad. Turkey says you cannot negotiate with a regime that kills its own people.

Comments made by US Secretary of State John Kerry - which implied

that the US would be willing to negotiate with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

to end the conflict is his country - were met with dismay across the Middle East on Monday.

"Assad's regime is the reason for all the problems in Syria," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (pictured above) responded on Monday.

"What is there to negotiate with Assad? What will you negotiate with a regime that has killed more than 200,000 people and used chemical weapons?"

Despite Ankara's outspoken criticism of the Syrian president, relations between Turkey and the United States have been strained over what Washington sees as limited support for its coalition against the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadists, active in both Syria and Iraq. Turkey has so far declined to let the coalition use an airbase in southern Turkey for raids against IS militants in Syria.

Reviving the diplomatic process

Kerry's comments came in a CBS interview where he deviated from the standard US line that Assad had lost all legitimacy and therefore had to be removed from power.

"We will have to negotiate in the end," the secretary of state said, adding the US alongside other nations, which he did not name, were exploring ways to revive a diplomatic solution to

the four-year conflict

that has killed hundreds of thousands and give rise to the brutal IS terrorist group.

"What we're pushing for is to get him (Assad) to come and do that, and it may require that there be increased pressure on him of various kinds in order to do that," Kerry said.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said that Kerry was not specifically referring to Assad, but rather of the need to bring representatives from his regime to the negotiating table.

However, Kerry's comments had already made waves in countries opposed to Assad. Commentators close to Gulf Arab governments who stand against the Syrian regime voiced their concern over the US top diplomat's message.

President Assad himself also criticized Kerry's statement, saying "declarations from the outside do not concern us," and that "the future of the Syrian president is for the Syrian people," not foreigners. He also called on foreign countries to stop supporting terrorists, a term Damascus uses for all the insurgent groups who have been fighting its authority since the civil war began in 2011.

es/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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