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Deputy PM Says Closer Moscow Ties Don't Change Turkey's Stance on Assad - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Turkey’s reconciled relations with Russia has not changed Ankara’s position that Syrian regime head Bashar al-Assad must step down from authority to restore peace in the war-torn country, Turkish deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told Reuters on Saturday.

Russia is Assad’s main military supporter while Turkey backs the opposition forces fighting to overthrow his totalitarian regime in the six year old conflict.
“We are in the same position, Assad has committed war crimes several times,” Kurtulmus told Reuters.

“We have of course with Russia some differences in our opinions for the future of Syria, but we see the Russian side much more willing to encourage the regime for a peaceful solution.”

Russia and Iran have provided direct military support to Assad.

Relations between Ankara and Moscow became tense after NATO member Turkey downed a Russian jet near the Syrian border a year ago but the two countries restored ties in August.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday.

Talking about the government’s crackdown on supporters of U.S.-based fundamentalist cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of masterminding a failed coup in July, Kurtulmus said the purge would continue for some time.

“This is a very dangerous position and we will kill them from every single position in the civil services, but that will take time,” he said.

Kurtulmus’ chief advisor Ali Osman Ozturk said he expected there could be more arrests for at least another year, depending on the evidence found. He said 95,950 people had been suspended from their positions so far, of which 16,000 civil servants had since been reinstated.

In the attempted putsch of July 15 over 240 people were killed as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, fighter jets and helicopters, bombing parliament and other key buildings.