Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday rubbished suggestions that talks should be held with President Bashar al-Assad, saying negotiating with the Syrian leader was no different to shaking hands with Nazi tyrant Adolf Hitler.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a weekend interview that Washington would have to talk with Assad eventually if peace was to be forged, in comments that drew a strong rebuke from Ankara which said there was nothing to negotiate with Assad.
"If you sit down and shake hands with Assad after all those massacres and despite the chemical weapons that you (the United States) declared a red line, then your hand will be never be erased from history," Davutoglu told his ruling AKP party's lawmakers in the parliament.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
Davutoglu drew parallels between the Syrian president and Nazi leader Hitler, late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, and Iraq's toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
"It makes no difference to shake hands with Hitler or Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Saddam, or Assad," he said.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday moved to clarify Kerry's assertion, saying that Assad would never be part of peace negotiations, a statement which was welcomed by the Turkish prime minister.
"We welcome that denial," he said.
Turkey, a former ally of Assad, has cut off ties with Damascus after the civil war in 2011 and supported rebellion against the regime in Damascus. Ankara has repeatedly called for removal of Assad from power.