Contacts between Turkey and Syria thicken as Russia wants out

Contacts between Turkey and Syria thicken as Russia wants out
Update: 16 September 2022 12:42
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Russia promotes talks between the neighboring countries in a new sense of urgency as Kremlin wants to focus more on Ukraine

Turkey and Syria stepped up contacts to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria as Russia wants to focus more on the war with Ukraine, where it recently suffered serious defeats, Reuters reported.

Sources said Turkey's intelligence chief has been to Damascus multiple times over the last few weeks and held meetings with his Syrian counterpart.

According to Reuters, during the talks between Hakan Fidan, head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT), and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk, the two sides reached a level to evaluate how the two countries' foreign ministers could eventually meet.

Fidan and Mamlouk have spoken intermittently over the last two years but the frequency of recent meetings reflected a Russian policy shift in Syria as Moscow prepares for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine.

Reports said earlier that Russia wanted to deploy its troops stationed in Syria to Ukraine, as well as Syrian mercenaries that have been fighting alongside Russia.

"Russia wants Syria and Turkey to overcome their problems and achieve certain agreements...which are in the interest of everyone, both Turkey and Syria," Reuters cited a Turkish official as saying.

The Turkish security official said Russia has already withdrawn some military resources from Syria and asked Turkey to normalize relations with Assad to "accelerate a political solution."

One regional source aligned with Damascus said Turkish-Syrian relations had begun to thaw and were advancing to a stage of "creating a climate for understanding."

The biggest complication in rapprochement between Turkey and Syria is the opposition rebels backed by Turkey holding areas in the northwestern part of the country. 

Turkey wants to include Syrian rebels in any talks with Damascus which see them as terrorists. 

But Turkey seemingly diminishes its support as reports said Turkish intelligence asked the Syrian opposition leaders to leave Turkey until the end of the year. 

One other aspect that brought together Russa and Turkey was that neither of the sides wanted a possible vacuum to be filled by Iranian rebels. 

A diplomat based in the region said Russia had pulled a limited number of troops out of Syria's south earlier this summer, particularly in areas along the border with Israel that were later filled by Iran-aligned forces.

The rapprochment between Turkey and Syria was once unthinkable as Turkey’s President Erdogan called Syria’s Bashar al Assad a terrorist and Assad called Erdogan “a thief stealing Syrian land.”