Free elections in Syria can end violence, says PM Erdogan

Free elections in Syria can end violence, says PM Erdogan

The solution to the current conflict in Syria between government forces and the opposition is holding free elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, on his return flight from Iran, where he has been visiting since Tuesday, Today's Zaman reported.

"We talked about Syria with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. We don't differ in our approach toward Syria. He also wants the deaths to end," Erdogan said.

"A ballot box should be placed in front of the Syrian people with the correct time and conditions. Whoever the people want to see at the helm, they will be accepted. The question of who will succeed President Bashar al-Assad is moot. Whoever the people of Syria want will be in office."

He said Iran might succeed in convincing Bashar to hold elections within six months, and Turkey can talk to the opposition.

Erdogan said the elections should be fair, transparent and open to international monitoring. "If necessary, OSCE or regional countries can send observers. If Assad displays a positive approach, we will wait patiently, but the deaths must come to an end as quickly as possible."

The prime minister also noted that he was optimistic that a settlement in Syria will be reached soon. "The two important developments are the idea of elections and that there is a united consensus against an intervention from outside. There can't be a second Libya syndrome," he told the journalists on the plane. He said there shouldn't be any military intervention in Syria without a UN resolution.

He also noted that the US, the UN, Russia and Iran are all important actors in the process. He said Russia was positive about the prospect of an election in Syria, as is Iran. And the US is not interested in an intervention in Syria.

Erdogan also spoke about the bilateral ties between Iran and Turkey. "Our trade volume is $16 billion. If it weren't for the international sanctions, this would have been $20 billion. If we diversify, we can close the trade gap with Iran. We are thinking of using the model of a preferential trade agreement. They will purchase certain products from Turkey. And the energy ministers will work out a solution for natural gas and oil prices."

The prime minister also gave information on his talks with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on the country's nuclear program. "Khamenei says, 'Our religion doesn't allow weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are too expensive to work as good deterrents.' Israel has 250-300 nuclear warheads. This is never discussed. Iran says it won't develop nuclear weapons. We don't know, only God knows that. Khamenei is a respected person who is open to the world. There is his word. Ahmedinejad also says the country's only concern is energy."

Erdogan also said a possible attack from Israel on Iran would have disastrous results. "It won't be anything like the US-Iraq war. Israel should not attack Iran," he said.

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