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Turkey Seeks To Include Saudis In Syrian Peace Talks; Iran Says No


Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saudi Arabia and Qatar should join Russian-sponsored peace talks on Syria even as a top Iranian official said the Saudis should be excluded.

Moscow has sponsored talks between Russia, Iran, and Turkey -- three of the main foreign players in Syria -- that it now seeks to broaden to include other parties in the five-year civil war.

Erdogan said on December 27 that the talks should include Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are allied with Turkey in supporting Sunni rebel groups seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, because they have "shown goodwill and given support" to Syria.

But Assad is closely allied with Moscow and Tehran, and a top Iranian official indicated Tehran will oppose including parties that seek Assad's ouster.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Russia's RT television that Saudi Arabia should be excluded from the peace talks because of its insistence that Assad step down. He said Assad should be allowed to run in the next Syrian presidential election if he wants.

Erdogan said he also wants to exclude Kurdish groups, which hold substantial territory in Syria, calling them "terror organizations" because they are affiliated with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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