Turkey to withdraw from northern Syria if stability achieved: Minister
The Turkish Foreign Minister says it is possible to establish joint work with Damascus in the future if common ground is formed in combating terrorism.
Ankara announced its intention to transfer control over the areas where Turkish forces are present in Syria to Damascus if political stability is achieved and indicated the possibility of joint work in the future with the Syrian authorities to combat terrorism.
In a speech during the end-of-year assessment meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it is possible to establish joint work in the future if common ground is formed between Syria and Turkey in terms of combating terrorism.
Cavusoglu claimed that Turkey respects the unity and sovereignty of the Syrian territories, adding that the purpose of the presence of the Turkish forces in Syria is to combat terrorism since the Syrian authorities cannot secure stability.
The Turkish Minister indicated that the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) pose a threat to his country, adding that their threat to Syria is even greater, as the militia has a separatist agenda.
The top diplomat indicated that his country would continue firmly to combat terrorism, adding that the differences between Ankara and Damascus prevented the establishment of cooperation between the two sides in this field.
He said the Syrian government wants the Syrian refugees to return to their country, stressing the need for this process to be done in a positive manner while ensuring their safety.
Cavusoglu also considered that it is important to involve the international system and the United Nations in the issue of the return of Syrian refugees.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu revealed that a meeting between the Turkish, Syrian and Russian presidents has been scheduled, but not for January.
The Turkish Minister said that even though Turkey believes that Syria was uncooperative in terms of the fight against terrorism due to political differences, there is room for future joint work, adding that the present negotiations did not prevent Ankara from continuing operations against terrorists in Syria.
On December 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had offered Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a meeting between the three leaders, which will be preceded by a meeting of the heads of the intelligence services, defense, and foreign ministries.
A few days ago, the Russian Defense Ministry said that defense ministers of Russia, Syria, and Turkey held trilateral talks in Moscow to discuss ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the issue of refugees, and joint efforts to combat extremist groups in Syria. The talks marked the first official meeting between Ankara and Damascus in 11 years.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the defense ministers highlighted that the dialogue was constructive, stressing the need for all three parties to hold further talks to bring more stability to Syria and the whole region, the Russian Ministry added.
Commenting on the trilateral meeting, Cavusoglu said that dialogue is important to reach an agreement on a road map for the Syrian settlement, adding that the relevant communication would continue.
Earlier, Ohran Miroglu, a Turkish member of parliament from the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Sputnik that the Syrian and Turkish ministers are expected to hold the next round of talks in Ankara and Damascus in the upcoming year, noting that the meetings will break down some barriers between the two countries.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had said his country was in talks with Russia to use Syria's airspace to conduct a cross-border operation against the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia in northeastern Syria.
It is noteworthy that on November 23, Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia's special presidential envoy for Syria, told reporters that Russia has been receiving indications from Ankara and Damascus about being open to making steps toward one another and about hopes for a Syrian-Turkish rapprochement.
In early October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to meet with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad when the time was right, noting that there were modest talks between Ankara and Damascus.
"There are intelligence meetings between the both of us currently," Erdogan pointed out in response to a question posed by Al Mayadeen's correspondent to Prague.
The Turkish President also hinted at the possibility of reconsidering relations with Damascus after the 2023 elections in Turkey.
But Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) member and former MP Orhan Miroğlu announced in early December that Damascus rejected Ankara's request to arrange a meeting between the two Presidents.
"Damascus intends to postpone the meeting between Erdogan and Al-Assad until after the Turkish elections," Miroğlu told Sputnik.
In mid-October, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Russia has offered to mediate a meeting between Erdogan and Al-Assad, but the Turkish leader "is not very warm" to this idea yet.
In an article written by Abdulkadir Selvi in the pro-Erdogan newspaper, Hurriyet, it was revealed that the Turkish President expressed that he had an interest in meeting with his Syrian counterpart had he attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Uzbekistan.
In the same context, Reuters cited four sources as saying that the heads of the Turkish and Syrian intelligence - Hakan Fidan and Ali Mamlouk - met in Damascus and held several meetings.
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