Recap: New Steps in Rapprochement Between Turkey and Syria

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, said that Moscow supports the idea of organizing a meeting between Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. As a result, the meeting will create more commonalities between the two sides. Turkish media also reported that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had expressed a wish to meet President Bashar al-Assad had the latter attended a summit held in Uzbekistan.

Sources familiar with the ongoing discussions within the Turkish government on reconciliation with the Syrian leadership, in statements to Al-Watan, said that the dialogue -at the diplomatic level- with Damascus is likely to begin next month. It will culminate in a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries the following month, or before the end of this year, at the latest, if progress is made in the number of issues being discussed, foremost of which is a clear withdrawal schedule from the Turkish side of its occupying forces of large parts of the Syrian territory.

Earlier, the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat reported that the Head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk have recently met in Damascus. The Daily Sabah newspaper, close to the Turkish government, revealed details of the meeting, which it said was an attempt to form a roadmap for the safe return of Syrians who sought refuge in Türkiye. It pointed out that both sides discussed issues they consider a top priority, as well as the main articles in the road map that must be followed, stressing that tangible outcomes of the talks will take some time.

This rapprochement led opposition factions to worry about their future. Similarly, the Asharq al-Awsat added that there is no plan for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria’s Idleb governorate and Aleppo countryside, a Turkish military source told a meeting of opposition factions in northwestern Syria. According to the source, Turkish forces present in those areas are “purely combative” and are deployed in compliance with an agreement concluded in early 2020 between Turkey and Russia within the framework of the Astana Agreement.

“A special meeting was held in northwestern Syria in recent days. It included several opposition soldiers and a Turkish military official,” a Syrian opposition leader told Asharq Al-Awsat. The meeting, said the source, tackled recent developments in Syria in addition to plans for warmer ties and normalization between Ankara and Damascus.

Syria TV

Amid these signs of rapprochement, the Syrian regime cancelled an upcoming visit by the leader of the opposition Turkish Homeland Party, Doğu Perinçek, to Damascus. The visit was announced in mid-August, along with Turkish businessman Adham Sancek, as part of an attempt to normalize Turkish-Syrian relations.

Turkish media quoted Prençek speaking to Turkish television channel Ulusal, in which he reported that his earlier announced visit to Damascus had been “postponed” for a while at the request of the Syrian regime.

Perinçek pointed out that the Syrian regime demanded the visit’s postponement due to Bashar al-Assad’s commitment to several international visits in the coming period. “They said we want you to meet Bashar al-Assad, but his schedule is crowded with international trips. This is why we postponed our visit to Syria at their request,” Perinçek explained.

Perinçek accused Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of being behind the cancellation of the visit, calling them the American wing. He claims that and that the AKP told the regime government, “Don’t meet Brençek before you meet us; meet with us before you meet him.”

Homeland Party secretary-general Özgür Bursali announced in mid-August that a delegation from the party would travel to Damascus and meet with Assad in the next few days.

North Press

Late on Wednesday, Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran met on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) in New York to discuss the situation in Syria.

Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sergei Lavrov discussed the current situation in Syria with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and the Turkish one Mevlut Cavusoglu in an Astana format tripartite meeting.

Lavrov said they stressed the necessity of bringing stability to Syria, which has been ravaged by the 11-years conflict.

According to Lavrov, views on the current situation in Syria and its surrounding were thoroughly exchanged, emphasizing the necessity of bringing sustainable stability on the ground, peace and security based on preserving Syrian unity, sovereignty and independence.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry Mevlut Cavusoglu said the UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pederson attended the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

Cavusoglu said on Twitter that they are continuing “diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis.”

The three FMs represent the Astana guarantor states that allegedly seek a solution for the Syrian crisis and de-escalation in northwest Syria.

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