Quadrilateral meeting in Moscow for rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus
The defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey held talks on Tuesday that Ankara and Moscow described as constructive, as part of efforts for a rapprochement between Turkey and Syria after years of animosity during the Syrian war.
Turkey has been backing an armed struggle to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, when the civil war erupted, and has occupied large parts of northern Syria in moves to root out efforts by pro-Kurdish parties and militia to establish an autonomous administration.
While Moscow, Assad's main ally, encourages a reconciliation with Ankara and the latter seeks cooperation with Assad against Syrian Kurds, Damascus demands the full withdrawal of Turkish troops for relations to be restored.
After the talks in Moscow, attended by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Agency (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan, Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement:
"Quadrilateral meeting on Syria discussed fight against terrorist organizations and all extremist groups on Syrian territory."
Turkish, Russian, Iranian, and Syrian defense and intelligence chiefs also discussed stepping up efforts to return Syrian refugees to their country, and the parties also reiterated their respect for the Syria's territorial integrity, the ministry added.
In contrast to the Turkish ministry's statement highlighting "fight against terrorist organizations," Syrian state news agency SANA reported on the meeting under the headline, "Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and Turkish defense ministers discuss withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian territory."