Talks between Syria and Turkey should aim at ending the occupation of Syrian lands and Ankara’s “support for terrorism”, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday in a Damascus meeting with Alexander Lavrentiev, Russian presidential envoy for Syria, according to Syrian state-run media.
The comments were the Syrian President’s first public ones on possible reconciliation talks between the two governments.
Assad also said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s December offer to hold trilateral meetings with Russia “should be coordinated between Syria and Russia … to produce tangible results”.
After a decade of open hostility, Erdoğan first stated his desire to reconcile with the Assad regime in August.
Ankara and Damascus had very close relations before the start of Syria’s civil war, however, they rapidly deteriorated upon Erdoğan’s support for rebel groups in their insurgency against Assad.
The pair started to signal a possible Russian-brokered rapprochement earlier in 2022, and negotiations between both countries’ intelligence units started without leaking much information to the media.
As a rare insight into the matter, a Turkish source told Reuters in September that Assad considered NATO member Turkey’s soldiers in Syria to be invaders, and Erdoğan wanted to see Syrian rebels included in any talks with Damascus.
Turkish armed forces have conducted military incursions into Syria since 2016. Erdoğan said on a state-run television channel in 2019 that his aim was to “keep accumulation under control” in Kurdish regions in northeast Syria.
Turkish officials have said the country’s cross-border military operations against Kurdish-held Syrian and Iraqi territories would continue uninterrupted.