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    Syrians walk past a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad in the capital Damascus on March 15, 2016

    Ankara Ready to Restore Peace in Syria With Assad at the Helm - Deputy PM

    © AFP 2019 / LOUAI BESHARA
    Middle East
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    Ankara is ready to restore peace in Syria without insisting on President Bashar Assad's resignation, according to Turkey's deputy prime minister.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Turkey can no longer insist on resolution of the crisis in Syria without President Bashar Assad, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said Friday.

    "Turkey can no longer insist on a settlement without Assad and it’s not realistic, so I think we just have to work with what we have and that’s where Russia, Iran, and Turkey come in in a big fashion," Simsek said at the World Economic Forum.

    Earlier in the day, Assad told the Japanese TBS broadcaster that his resignation was not subject to discussions with opposition or foreign states as it was a matter of national importance.

    Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has consistently insisted on Assad's resignation.

    Assad's presidency is a cornerstone of debates on the future of Syria with the United States, the European Union and their allies demanding that he step down, and Russia and Iran believing that the future of Syria can be determined only by its citizens.

    On August 24, the Turkish army launched Operation Euphrates Shield against militants of the Daesh group, which is outlawed in Russia and many other countries. Turkish forces, with assistance from Syrian opposition fighters, occupied the city of Jarablus in northern Syria and are currently conducting its offensive on al-Bab. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the aim of the operation is to clear the region of terrorists and make it a safety zone for refugees.

    The operation has been widely criticized both by the Syrian Kurds and Damascus, who have accused Ankara of violating Syria's territorial integrity.

    In late December, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a Russian-Turkish resolution on a ceasefire regime in Syria, as well as on holding political talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups in Astana, Kazakhstan in January 2017. A day earlier, a nationwide ceasefire between Syrian government troops and several opposition factions came into force. Russia and Turkey serve as guarantors of the deal that paves the way for negotiations between the warring parties.

    Since 2011, Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, with government forces fighting against numerous opposition and terrorist groups, including al-Nusra Front and Daesh, which is banned in a range of countries, including Russia.

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