Turkish PM Davutoglu: Negotiating With Assad Like Shaking Hands With Hitler

03/17/2015 08:00 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015

ISTANBUL, March 17 (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Tuesday negotiating with President Bashar al-Assad would be like shaking hands with Adolf Hitler, highlighting Turkey's differences with Washington over dealing with the Syrian leader.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the U.S. would have to negotiate with Assad, though the State Department later said he was not specifically referring to the Syrian leader and that Washington would never bargain with him.

Speaking at an AK Party meeting in Ankara, Davutoglu said voices in the West which say there is a need to negotiate with Assad "make us question our human values."

"Despite all these massacres, despite the use of chemical weapons that crossed the red line, if you still shake the hand of Assad, that handshake will be remembered throughout history," he said in a speech broadcast live.

"There's no difference between shaking hands with Assad, or with Hitler, Saddam, Karadzic, Milosevic."

The United States has been a backer of Syria's opposition but its focus has shifted to fighting Islamic State militants since they seized swathes of Syria and Iraq, seeing them as a greater threat to global security.

Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, refusing to step up its military cooperation without a comprehensive plan for Syria which includes removing Assad. (Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

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