Turkey PM urges world powers to turn ‘new page’ on Syria

Yildirim’s comments came after as activists said hundreds of Ankara-backed rebels were preparing an offensive against ISIS

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Monday urged world powers including Iran, Russia and the United States to join together to rapidly open a “new page” in the Syria crisis.

“It is vital that without losing more time a new page is opened in Syria, based on a model involving particularly Turkey, Iran... Russia, the United States and even some Gulf states and Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He said Turkey’s stance was “very clear -- not allowing Syria to be divided, maintaining its territorial integrity and not allowing any formation that will bring advantages to any group.”

“Syria’s territorial integrity must be protected and an inclusive government ... where all groups are represented must be formed, so that all the animosity is removed,” he added.

The comments were the latest signal from Ankara it is now prepared to work actively with world powers who have so far shared radically different viewpoints on the Syria conflict.

Russia and Iran are the major backers of President Bashar al-Assad, whose ouster Ankara has always said is essential for ending the over five-year civil war.

But Yildirim had on Saturday said, for the first time, that Assad is “one of the actors” in Syria and could remain temporarily in a transition period.

He said Monday: “It is essential that all the parties come together to stop the bloodshed in Syria and form a model of governance where all Syrians are represented.”

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu last week made a surprise visit to Iran while earlier this month Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for the first time since a crisis in ties.

Yildirim’s comments also came after as activists said hundreds of Ankara-backed rebels were preparing an offensive against the ISIS group in Syria.

This offensive coincides with a similar move by Syrian Kurdish militia, potentially putting them on a collision course in the fight for the ISIS-held Syrian town of Jarablus.

Yildirim added that it was “absolutely unacceptable” for any Kurdish entity to be established in northern Syria, or any other region.

“In fact this is something that Syrians themselves would find unacceptable,” he said.

Yildirim refused to be drawn about movement on the Turkish-Syrian border for a possible Jarablus operation.

“It is always essential that armed forces control crossings to our country for border security and are ready against attacks from the south of our borders,” he said.

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