Saturday, May 18, 2024

Syria sets condition for Assad-Erdogan meeting

Syria’s foreign minister says President Bashar al-Assad of Syria would only meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan when Ankara was ready to completely withdraw its military forces from the northern part of the war-ravaged country.

Mekdad made the remarks in an interview with Russia’s RT Arabic television news network in Damascus on Sunday.

“Damascus would not normalize relations with Turkey, which occupies swathes of land in Syria,” he stated.

Mekdad added that Assad’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart would depend on the full pullout of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.

Back in March, Assad stated that there was no point in a meeting with Erdogan until Turkey’s “illegal occupation” ended.

“This is linked to arriving at a stage where Turkey would clearly be ready and without any ambiguity to exit completely from Syrian territory and end its support of terrorism and restore the situation that prevailed before the start of the war on Syria,” Assad said in an interview with Russian TV station Sputnik.

“This is the only situation when it would then be possible to have a meeting between me and Erdogan,” he continued, adding, “Aside from that, what’s the value of such a meeting and why would we do it if it would not achieve final results for the war in Syria?”

Turkey severed its relations with Syria in March 2012, a year after the Arab country found itself in the grip of deadly violence waged by foreign-backed militants.

Now, after 12 years, the two neighboring countries are taking steps toward reconciliation.

In the meantime, Turkey deployed forces in Syria in October 2019 in violation of the Arab country’s territorial integrity.

Ankara-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push militants of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) away from border areas.

Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says the Turkish offensive has killed hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children since it started.

Turkey has played a major role in supporting terrorists in Syria ever since a major foreign-backed insurgency overtook the country more than ten years ago.

President Assad and other senior officials have said the Damascus government will respond through all legitimate Syrian means available to the ongoing ground offensive by Turkish forces and allied Takfiri militants in the northern part of the war-battered Arab country.

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