Open to meet Assad sans withdrawal from Syria: Erdogan

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ISTANBUL

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al Assad but setting the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria as a precondition for talks was “unacceptable”.

Turkey is the biggest ally of the Syrian opposition, which controls the last rebel centre in northwest Syria. Ankara has deployed thousands of troops in northern Syria, preventing the Russian-backed Syrian army from re-taking the region.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul ahead of his departure for a three-day visit to Middle East, Erdogan said that Turkey has never “shut the door” to discussions with the Syrian government.

“We can hold a four-party summit with Syria, Russia and Iran, and I am also open to a meeting with Assad,” Erdogan said. However Damascus’ was unacceptable, he added.