Turkey in talks with Assad regime via intelligence services

Turkey in talks with Assad regime via intelligence services
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Turkish FM Cavusoglu said if Syrian and Iraqi governments take heed of Turkey’s calls, they can walk side by side in fight against terrorism, but if they remain unresponsive, Ankara will pull itself by its own bootstraps

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara has been in talks with Syrian regime through both countries’ intelligence services.

“If the [Syrian] regime acts realistically, we are ready to work together on the fight against terrorism, the political process, and the return of Syrians," Cavusoglu said during a parliamentary speech in capital Ankara on Monday.

Emphasizing that Turkey was following the same policy in Iraq, Cavusoglu said Ankara also offered both Baghdad and Erbil governments to cooperate against terrorism, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“If our interlocutors take heed of our calls, we can walk side by side in fight against terrorism. But if they remain unresponsive, we will pull ourselves by our own bootstraps," he said.

Last month, Turkey launched an aerial campaign into Northern Syria and Northern Iraq to combat Kurdish militants which it deems to be terrorists. Targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate People’s Protection Units (YPG), Ankara also signalled a ground operation into the region.

Turkey will not allow the PKK and the YPG to take shelter in Syria and Iraq, Cavusoglu said.

“No matter what anyone says, we will do whatever is necessary," he said.

Since 2016, Turkey carried out three large-scale military operations into Northern Syria to combat YPG, a US-backed group that Ankara sees as an offshoot of the PKK.

Turkish military forces also regularly conduct cross-border operations in Northern Iraq against Kurdish militants.

The governments of Damascus and Baghdad, as well as the Erbil administration (the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, KRI) oppose Turkey’s military operations in their soil, condemning the attacks as illegitimate.

PKK is an outlawed armed group in Turkey, fighting an insurgency on Turkish soil for almost four decades and designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The YPG is allied with the West in a fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), forming the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ankara’s relations with Damascus have deteriorated a decade ago following a civil war broke in Syria in 2011 and since then, former good “friends” Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bashar al-Assad became fierce “enemies”.

Turkey has supported armed Syrian rebels against Assad, providing them military support from the early stages of the civil war.

While Turkish President Erdogan in the past has repeatedly described Assad as a "terrorist", blaming him of killing his citizens during the civil war, Assad also frequently accused Erdogan of Muslim Brotherhood affiliation, a political Islamist group that ousted by al-Sisi regime and designated as a terrorist organization by Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Erdogan recently showed willingness for reconciliation with the Assad regime.

Last month, Syrian President Assad said he expects the level of bilateral meetings with Turkey to be raised soon, as “Turkey has shown readiness to meet Syria’s demands.”

“Syria expects deeds, not mere words, from Turkey,” Assad said.

Syria frequently calls on Turkey to withdraw from Syrian territory and stop financing and training Syrian opposition groups against Damascus government.