Syrian regime FM calls for Turkish withdrawal in meeting with Iranian counterpart

Syrian regime FM calls for Turkish withdrawal in meeting with Iranian counterpart
Syrian regime foreign minister Faisal Mekdad has called for Turkey to withdraw from the country's north after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdallohian
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Syria FM Faisal Mekdad held a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Damascus [Getty]

Syrian regime foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said on Saturday that Turkey would have to end its military presence in his country to achieve a full rapprochement.

"We cannot talk about resuming normal ties with Turkey without removing the occupation," he said after meeting his Iranian counterpart in Damascus.

Turkey has been a major backer of the political and armed opposition to Syrian president President Bashar al-Assad during the 12-year conflict in Syria, and has sent its own troops into swathes of the country's north.

The conflict began in 2011 with the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the Assad regime. Over 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.


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Russia, a key ally of Assad, is supporting a rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara, hosting talks between their defence ministers last month and aiming for meetings between the foreign ministers and eventually presidents.

Mekdad said on Saturday "a meeting between Assad and the Turkish leadership depends on removing the reasons for the dispute," without providing more details or mentioning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by name.

Mekdad was speaking after meeting in Damascus with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the foreign minister of Assad’s other main ally, Iran.

Amir-Abdollahian, who also met Assad on Saturday, said on Friday that Iran was "happy with the dialogue taking place between Syria and Turkey".

Assad said on Friday the results should be based on the principle of "ending the occupation and support for terrorism", a term that Syrian regime authorities use to refer to all opposition armed groups.

A source with close knowledge of the negotiations said Syria wanted Turkey to pull its troops the north and to halt support to three main opposition factions.

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The source said the Syrian regime was keen to see progress on those demands through follow-up committees before agreeing to a foreign ministers' meeting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he could meet Mekdad early in February, rejecting reports the two could meet next week.

Syria has made no official comment on the timing of any such meeting, which would mark the highest-level talks between Ankara and Damascus since 2011.

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)