Damascus, Syria — AFP
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has said that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkiye should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.
The comment, in a statement from his office, was Assad’s first on meetings between ministers from Ankara and Damascus after more than a decade of enmity during Syria’s civil war.
Ankara became a forefront enemy of Damascus when it supported the popular movement against Assad and opposed his crackdown on protesters triggering a civil war 12 years ago.
However, last month, the defence ministers of Turkiye and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow — the first such meeting since 2011.
The defence ministers’ meeting is to be followed by talks between top diplomats, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who called Assad a “terrorist” in 2017 — has opened up to the idea of meeting the Syrian leader with whom he had good relations before 2011.
The mooted reconciliation has alarmed Syrian opposition leaders and supporters who reside mostly in parts of the war-torn country under Ankara’s indirect control.
After the tripartite defence ministers’ meeting, hundreds of Syrians in Al-Bab, a town controlled by rebel factions long backed by Ankara, demonstrated in protest.
“There is no clear date yet, but we will hold this tripartite meeting as soon as possible. Maybe at the beginning of February,” Cavusoglu told Turkish reporters during the Rwanda visit.