Akar says he discussed “counterterrorism efforts” with Syrian counterpart

Akar says he discussed “counterterrorism efforts” with Syrian counterpart
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Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said he emphasized that Turkey respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of Syria, in a first meeting with his Syrian counterpart after 11 years

The Turkish, Russian, and Syrian defense ministers discussed counterterrorism efforts, migration and stability in the region in a landmark meeting in Moscow on Wednesday evening, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.

Akar’s meeting with Syrian counterpart Ali Mahmoud Abbas, a first ministerial level talk between Turkey and Syria 11 years after the civil war erupted in Syria, marked a major sign of rapprochement between regional foes.

“At the meeting, we emphasized that we respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of all our neighbors, especially Syria and Iraq, and that our sole aim is the fight against terrorism, we have no other purpose," said Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar before returning to Ankara from Moscow.

"We have told them that we are making efforts to ensure the security of our country, nation and borders," Akar said, adding that his country is "making efforts to prevent further migration from Syria to Turkey."

Earlier, the Turkish defense ministry said in a statement that the discussions focused on the collaboration against “all terrorist groups” in Syria, while Russia’s Defense Ministry said the focus was on combating “extremist groups on Syrian territory.”

Wednesday’s meeting came after a series of positive messages from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to the Damascus regime. Earlier this month he expressed an openness to meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying he proposed to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin forming a trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria to accelerate diplomacy between Ankara and Damascus.

"First our intelligence agencies, then defense ministers, and then foreign ministers (of the three countries) could meet. After their meetings we as the leaders may come together. I offered it to Mr Putin and he has a positive view on it," Erdogan said.