Turkey would consider working with Assad if he won a democratic Syrian election

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference in Ankara, Turkey November 22, 2018. Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

DOHA (Reuters) - Turkey and other world powers would consider working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if he won a democratic election, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a conference in Qatar on Sunday.

Turkey supported the opposition to Assad in the Syrian civil war that broke out in 2011 and continues to support rebel fighters who control part of northwest Syria. A year ago Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described Assad as a terrorist and said it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with him.

Since then Assad, with backing from Russia and Iran, has driven rebels from strongholds in the south of the country and around Damascus, strengthening his authority even though parts of the country remain outside government control.

Asked whether Turkey would work with Assad, Cavusoglu said Syria must hold an election. If Assad won, he told a conference in Doha and “if it is democratic election, and if it is a credible one then everybody should consider (working with him).”

Assad won re-election in June 2014, securing 88.7 percent support in a vote which the opposition derided as a charade, saying that he faced no credible rival candidate and that no poll held amid civil war could be credible.

Reporting by Dmitry Zdhannikov; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Potter and Toby Chopra