Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara "is a man of reason" who could replace President Bashar Assad, AFP quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as saying on Saturday.

According to AFP,  Davutoğlu said on Turkish television channel TRT: "Farouq al-Shara is a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria. Nobody knows the (Syrian) system better than he."

According to the report, the Turkish foreign minister stressed that the Syrian opposition "is inclined to accept Shara" as the future leader of the Syrian administration.

Davutoglu also said he was convinced that the Syrian vice president was still in Syria, despite reports that al-Shara defected.

Shara, appointed six years ago after the defection of Abdul-Halim Khaddam, is a Sunni Muslim from the southern Deraa province where the 17-month-old uprising against the Alawite president first erupted.

The 73-year-old former foreign minister kept a low profile as the rebellion against Assad escalated, but appeared in public in July at a state funeral for three of Assad's top security officials killed in a bomb attack in Damascus.

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Relations between Ankara and Damascus have deteriorated rapidly after Syrian shells killed five Turkish villagers last week when they were fired across the border. Turkish strikes have since continued for four days in retaliation for mortar bombs and shelling by Syrian forces.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus last week Turkey would not shy away from war if provoked. Erdogan said his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a "fatal mistake" by testing its resolve. Damascus said its fire hit Turkey accidentally.

NATO-member Turkey, once an ally of Assad, but now a leading voice in calls for him to quit, has nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory and has allowed rebel leaders sanctuary. Its armed forces are far larger than Syria's.

The strikes and counter-strikes are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria's conflict, which began as a democracy uprising but has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones. They highlight how the crisis could destabilize the region.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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