Turkey’s main opposition leader sends condolence letter to Syria’s Assad

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The head of Turkey’s main opposition party on Thursday sent a condolence letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country was also devastated by the Feb. 6 earthquake, saying he felt the pain of the Syrian lives lost.

The rare communication from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who may emerge as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival in the country’s upcoming election, came after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 49,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

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“As this disaster and the pain we have experienced show once again, we are partners and neighbors in our grief, we share the common pain of our peoples,” Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), said.

“Therefore, I take this opportunity to express my condolences to you and your people and hope that we will not share our sorrows but our hopes in the future.”

There has been no regular contact between the main Turkish opposition and Assad, but Kilicdaroglu has urged Erdogan “not to pick a fight” with Syria and CHP officials have called on the government to open a dialogue with Damascus.

After providing military and political support to the Syrian opposition fighting Assad for over a decade and sending Turkish troops into swathes of northern Syria, Erdogan in early January said he might meet the Syrian president.

The defense ministers of the two countries met late last year for the highest-level talks between the two foes since the Syrian war began in 2011.

Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have become increasingly unwelcome amid economic hardship in Turkey.

Erdogan has talked about returning some refugees, although neither the president nor the opposition has set out how that could safely take place.

Russia helped Assad turn the tide of the war in his favor and says it is seeking a political end to the conflict and wants to bring the two leaders together for talks.

In mid-January, Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said Turkey would have to end its military presence in his country to achieve a full rapprochement.

Read more:

Death toll from Turkey, Syria earthquake tops 47,000

Turkey investigates building contractors as quake toll rises

More than 200 planes of quake aid flown to Syria: Official

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