Bashar al-Assad cannot be part of Syria’s long-term future, Turkish prime minister said Saturday.
Speaking to foreign media representatives in Istanbul, Binali Yildirim said: “The question is will there be Assad or not? Assad is responsible for the deaths of 500,000 people.
“Could Syria go forward with Assad in the long term? Absolutely not.”
The premier said both U.S. and Russia know Assad would be a liability in the long term. “Today, the U.S. and Russia also know that Assad does not appear to be a unifier in the long term. For the transitional period, there can be talks so that a peaceful smooth transition can be made.
“[But] in our opinion, neither the PKK, nor Daesh nor Assad should be in Syria’s future for ensuring lasting peace. However, whether we want it or not Assad is one of the actors,” he said.
He also called for all stakeholders in Syria to come together for a political transitional period.
The prime minister also said Turkey would be more active in the coming six months for the sake of establishing lasting peace in the region. He said Turkey would not let Syria be divided along ethnic and sectarian lines.
He said more steps were needed to prevent any more civilian deaths and displacement of people in Syria.
"Our aim is to provide an immediate solution with a structure that will include the U.S. and Russia, [and] especially Gulf countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia," Yildirim said.
He added instability in Syria was producing terrorist groups, which then spread to other countries, such as Turkey and Iraq.
About Syrian regime planes bombing Kurdish regions in northeastern Syria since Thursday and the U.S. steering coalition planes to al-Hasakah region, Yildirim said the issue was a "new one".
"For some time, Syrian regime made no move against the PYD [terrorist PKK group's Syrian affiliate]. Last week, they bombed al-Hasakah. We read the situation as [Assad] regime realizing that Kurdish [forces] were making efforts to build a new structure in the north, which is becoming a threat to Syria," Yildirim said.
Since the Syrian conflict began more than five years ago, fighting has sporadically erupted between Syrian forces and the YPG [militant wing of PYD] in northern Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud district, and at checkpoints and oilfields near al-Hasakah.
Syrian warplanes on Thursday struck YPG-held parts of al-Hasakah, killing five civilians and a YPG militant in the city’s Salihiya, Tel Hajer and al-Mufti districts.
Syria has been wracked by conflict since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests – which had erupted as part of that year’s "Arab Spring" uprisings – with unexpected ferocity.
Gulen's extradition process
About the extradition process of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) leader Fetullah Gulen, Yildirim said: "One thing is certain, things will not be the same" after the July 15 coup attempt.
"We know this, the U.S. knows this. So far, we are content about the extradition process. We want the process to be accelerated. There was a coup attempt, there are confessions, it is a crystal-clear fact that Gulen is behind this," he said.
The prime minister also called on the U.S. to investigate certain documents linked to the coup bid "as soon as possible" and "do what is necessary".
Yildirim said Turkey's demand from the U.S. was "very clear".
"We say, first make a temporary arrest, and then return him [Gulen] to Turkey," the premier said.
Turkey's government has said the defeated coup, which left 240 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured, was organized by followers of Fetullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, and his FETO network.
Gulen is accused of leading a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the parallel state.