Turkey Slams Kerry over 'Talk to Assad' Remarks

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Turkey on Monday slammed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for suggesting negotiations would have to be opened with President Bashar Assad to end the conflict in Syria.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state-run Anatolia news agency that all Syria's current problems, on the fourth anniversary of the start of the conflict in March 2011, were caused by the Assad regime.

"What is there to be negotiated with Assad?" Cavusoglu was quoted as saying at the end of his visit to Cambodia.

"You are going to have what negotiations with a regime that has killed over 200,000 people and has used chemical weapons?" he asked. 

"Up until now, what result has been reached (with the regime) through negotiations?" he added.

He said all parties needed to work for a political "transformation" in Syria.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons -- even after a 2013 international agreement for its chemical arsenal to be moved out of the country and destroyed.

Kerry over the weekend conceded "we have to negotiate in the end" with Assad, on the fourth anniversary of a conflict that has left more than 215,000 dead.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pressed for the exit of Assad as the key for any solution to end the violence in Syria.

With strains growing between Washington and Ankara, U.S. officials have also been disappointed by Turkey's limited support for the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

Ankara has so far declined to give the United States permission to used the Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey as a base for raids against IS jihadists in Syria.

Cavusoglu said two issues had to be solved to bring peace to Syria -- destroy IS and "other terrorist groups", and bring about a political transformation in Syria with the departure of the Assad regime.

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