"Turkish military presence hinders diplomatic efforts"
Syria's foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said that Turkey's military presence in Syrian soil and its support for armed groups hindered diplomatic efforts of rapprochement between the two countries and that the prospect of a meeting between Syrian and Turkish presidents depends on "removing the reasons" that led to the current situation in Syria.
Speaking at a joint press conference on Saturday after a meeting with Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Mekdad said:
"The relations between Syria and Turkey before 2011 were normal relations based on good-neighborly policies and concern for the common interests of the two countries, and we, since that time until this moment, strive and make every possible effort to end terrorism, which disturbed these relations and halted them, and led to the destruction of the infrastructure and health and educational services in Syria.”
“Therefore, the meeting between President Bashar al-Assad and the Turkish leadership depends on removing the reasons that led to this situation and the differences that replaced the consensus on which the Syrian-Turkish relations were previously built on."
Stressing that an environment ought to be created for meetings at higher levels, and that any political meeting must be built on solid steps that respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Mekdad went on to express his appreciation for the efforts made by Iran to reform relations between Syria and Turkey, and stated that the Turkish military's presence in Syrian territories and the support provided by Turkey to some armed groups hindered these efforts.
Around the time the press conference in Damascus was held, the advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of reporters in Istanbul that Ankara continues to consider a fresh Turkish military campaign into Northern Syria as an option.
Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin complained about the presence of Kurdish militia in Syria, and said, "We want our borders to be secure. We do not target the interests of the Syrian administration and Syrian civilians."