'Working with Assad to be considered if elected fairly'

Turkish foreign minister says Syrian people should be ones to decide who will rule their country

'Working with Assad to be considered if elected fairly'

By Nazli Yuzbasioglu

DOHA, Qatar

Turkish foreign minister on Sunday said if there is a democratic and credible election in Syria, then everybody "should consider" working with the Bashar al-Assad.

"If it is democratic and credible one then everybody should consider that [working with Assad]," Mevlut Cavusoglu told a special session -- moderated by CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble -- of 18th Doha Forum in Qatar.

"It has to be very credible, transparent, democratic and fair elections. At the end, Syrian people should decide who is going to rule the country after the elections," Cavusoglu added.

He further said that constitution for Syria should be drafted by the people of their own country.

“It [the draft process] should be conducted under the umbrella of the United Nations. It has to be an inclusive one. Everybody, the eligible ones, should be able to vote,” he said, referring to Syrians inside and outside of the country, including Turkey and other neighboring countries.  

Turkey, US relations

Cavusoglu said Washington’s support to YPG/PKK terrorist organization in Syria and extradition of leader of Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) -- the group behind July 2016 deadly coup attempt in Turkey -- are main issues between Turkey and the U.S.

"Recently I’ve seen the credible investigation of the FBI in several states and they have noticed the darkness of this organization [FETO]," he said, adding that the country saw that the terror group was violating the U.S. laws, "including tax fraud, visa fraud, and also some other illegal activities."

Noting that Turkey’s expectation was very clear, he said extradition of the FETO leader Fetullah Gulen and other perpetrators of the attempted coup -- "84 names" -- were requested from the U.S.

"Last time when we met in Buenos Aires, [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump told [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan that they have been working on that. But we have to see concrete steps, because it has already been more than two years, almost three years," Cavusoglu warned.

On a planned Turkish operation against YPG/PKK terrorists east of the Euphrates River, he said when it came to the terror group, the Western countries keep supporting them on the pretext that they fight against Daesh terrorists.

He said the YPG/PKK’s fight against Daesh was not based on ideology but to "gain more territories" both in Syria and Iraq.

He said that no other country killed more terrorists than Turkey did and it killed more than 4,000 Daesh terrorists, over 3,000 of them in Syria and others in Iraq.

Cavusoglu went onto say that the Western countries were "closing eyes" to what YPG/PKK were doing to civilians in the region.

"They have been intimidating the people," he said, adding that he met Ezidi Nobel peace laureate Nadia Murad and she told him that Ezidi people were forcibly recruited by the PKK in Iraq’s Sinjar region.

"I think nobody here heard her voice," he said. 

Khashoggi killing

On the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Cavusoglu said Turkey has been sharing all information it obtained since the murder, but Saudi Arabia failed to do the same.

“We shared all information with them, […] but so far we haven’t been provided any information from the ongoing investigation in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Mentioning voice recordings, he said: “You can see very clearly that they planned in advance to kill him.”

He said the Khashoggi was not killed after “a resistance or a fight”.

“They brought even forensic expert to cut the body into pieces. It is obvious in the record,” he said.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

After producing various contradictory explanations, Riyadh acknowledged he was killed inside the diplomatic building, blaming the act on a botched rendition operation.  

*Sena Guler contributed to this story from Ankara.

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