Syrian leader turns down Erdogan’s request to send a delegation to Syria
A Lebanese politician allied with Syria who regularly meets Syrian officials said an Iranian delegation recently carried a message from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to Syrian leader Bashar al Assad to negotiate the control of areas currently held by Kurdish militants in Northern Syria, AP News reported.
Erdogan called for the return of the Syrian army to those areas now controlled by the Kurds, to prevent Kurdish fighters from using Syrian gas and oil and for Syrian refugees in Turkey to be returned to Syria, the Lebanese politician told AP.
In the message passed by the Iranians, Erdogan also said he was ready to send Turkish officials to Damascus, but Assad refused, saying they could meet in a third country, according to the Lebanese politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive Syrian affairs.
A senior Turkish government official denied any Iranian mediation, arguing that Tehran was “antagonistic” toward Turkey in Syria. The official said it was Russia that pushed Turkey toward reconciliation but that there was “no progress at all.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the backroom diplomacy.
Turkey’s intervention inside Syria is a major obstacle for Damascus.
Mais Kreidi, a Syria-based member of the committee charged with producing a new constitution for Syria, said Syria will not accept less than full Turkish withdrawal to restore ties.
“In Syria we have red lines and they include liberating our land,” Kreidi said.
Nevertheles, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan aims to meet with Syria’s leader before next year’s presidential elections, a Turkish columnist said.
The meeting will be hosted by Moscow, according to Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi.
Turkey has supported armed Syrian rebels against Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, providing them military support and intervened in the conflict by conducting several military incursions into Northern Syria to combat Kurdish militants. International powers, especially the United States oppose Turkey’s military campaigns against the YPG in the region, saying that this weakens the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).