Major obstacles for Syria-Turkey detente emerge in Moscow meeting

Major obstacles for Syria-Turkey detente emerge in Moscow meeting
Syria's deputy FM said that Turkey must withdraw troops as a precondition to further talks between the two countries.
2 min read
05 April, 2023
The meeting was held to discuss preparations for a meeting of foreign ministers from the four countries. [Getty]

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan said in Moscow on Tuesday that Turkey needed to completely withdraw from Syria's territory as a precondition to any talks between the two countries.

Turkey mans a number of military observation posts in northwest Syria and supports the Syrian National Army (SNA) – a loose patchwork of Syrian rebel militias that govern parts of northern Syria.

Sousan's comments came as part of a meeting between the deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Russia, Iran and Turkey in Moscow yesterday.

The meeting was the highest-level public diplomatic contact between Damascus and Ankara in recent years.

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The meeting was largely focused on trying to jump-start reconciliation talks between Turkey and Syria, which Russia has been trying to facilitate since late 2022.

"So far, we have not seen any positive signs regarding the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria," Sousan said, noting that withdrawal of Turkish forces would "open the door to various areas of coordination and cooperation."

While Turkish leadership has expressed interest in a detente, with Turkey's foreign minister saying he was open to meeting his Syrian counterpart, Turkey's backing of Syrian rebels continues to be a stumbling block.

Syria's opposition has reacted with outrage to reports of Turkish "normalisation" with Damascus, holding rallies in rebel-held Idlib in the country's northwest demonstrating against reconciliation.

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Turkey hosts much of Syria's opposition and is used as a hub for NGOs which support non-regime-held areas.

Syrian opposition figures have raised concerns that Ankara's normalisation with Damascus could come at their expense.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov reportedly proposed another meeting where the foreign ministers of each country could meet to elevate discussions.

According to the pro-regime newspaper "Al-Watan," the meeting of foreign ministers could happen as soon as next Monday or Tuesday.