Northern Syria erupts in protest after Turkish FM suggests regime 'reconciliation'

Northern Syria erupts in protest after Turkish FM suggests regime 'reconciliation'
Protests have erupted across northern Syria after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Syria's opposition and regime needed to reconcile to end the war.
3 min read
12 August, 2022
Syrians in Idlib province and parts of Aleppo province took to the streets to denounce any reconciliation with the regime [Getty]

Thousands of Syrians in rebel-held areas in Northern Syria took to the streets on Thursday and Friday to protest against a proposal from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for reconciliation between the Syrian government and opposition.

"We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be no lasting peace, we always say this," the Turkish FM told diplomats on Thursday.

In Idlib province and parts of Aleppo province - the only remaining areas in the war-ravaged country held by Syrian opposition groups - protesters took to the streets en masse to denounce reconciliation with what they called a "criminal" regime, with some demonstrators burning Turkish flags.

More than 500,000 people have been killed in Syria, largely at the hands of the regime and at its ally Russia, since the war began in 2011. At least 11 million more have been displaced from their homes.

Activists have used the Arabic-language hashtag "We_Will_Not_Reconcile" on social media sites to highlight their disgust at the move.

It follows growing signs that Turkey and the Syrian regime might restore ties, including a brief meeting between Cavusoglu and his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in Belgrade.

He has also said he would support any Syrian regime military operations against Kurdish militias in the north, after a decade-long boycott of Assad by Ankara.

This and other signs of normalisation have led to protests by Syrians.

"[The] reconciliation boat has sailed since the first martyr got killed by [the] Assad regime. Nothing has changed. We won't reconcile," Twitter user Pax said.

"The revolution will not die, freedom and punishment of criminals is the only solution," tweeted Samer Daboul, a photojournalist from Idlib.

Others made their case against reconciliation by referencing victims of the war, including Hamzah al-Khatib, a child who was brutally murdered by the regime.

"We can reconcile if... Hamzah Al-Khatib agrees to it… if the mothers of the martyrs agreed and the wounds of the injured [are] healed," activist Abo Ahmad Noor wrote.

Cavusoglu's comments have also sparked calls for further protests after Friday weekly prayers in cities under the control of Turkish forces and their allies, including in Al-Bab, Afrin and Jarablus.

Turkey's top diplomat also revealed that communication had resumed between the two countries' intelligence agencies.

But he dismissed the possibility of direct talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, despite long-standing calls from Russia for such dialogue.

His comments came following Turkish threats to launch a large-scale operation in northern Syria against Kurdish groups that Ankara deem to be "terrorists".