“I did not use the phrase reconciliation between the Syrian regime and the opposition, but I said that a settlement of the crisis must be reached.” This is how the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has tried to contain the controversy that erupted after news of his meeting with Syria’s top diplomat, Faisal al-Mekdad. News reports circulated that Cavusoglu called for “reconciliation” between Damascus and the opposition during that meeting.
Cavusoglu’s statements seemed, however, to be too little too late. In fact, in the media, in political and diplomatic circles and particularly on the streets, these statements left quite an impression.
For example, Syria’s pro-Assad Al-Watan newspaper said the meeting between the two diplomats took place “at the urging of the Turkish minister.” Still according to the newspaper, Oglu’s comments were a continuation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks following his meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi. In the meeting, he announced that his country’s security services were in contact with their Syrian counterparts regarding “terrorist organizations.”
Moreover, Cavusoglu’s comments in recent days have fueled major protests in northern and northwestern Syria, which is under the control of Turkish forces. In these cities and towns, demonstrations were protesting these statements, including al-Bab, Azaz, Sajo, Jarablus, al-Raai and Maraa in the countryside of Aleppo, Salqin, and Idleb. During these demonstrations, protesters even burned the Turkish flag, which resulted in arresting two demonstrates at least and raised slogans denouncing the statements of the Turkish regime’s foreign minister. Meanwhile, the National Army and some opposition groups denounced the burning of the flag and attacks against Turkey.
In turn, the government said it would not comment on these statements unless they were coupled with concrete actions. In this vein, Syria TV has reported that a Turkish newspaper revealed five demands of the Syrian regime to restore communication between Damascus and Ankara. According to the newspaper Türkiye Gazetesi, the Syrian regime demanded the fulfillment of five initial demands from the Turkish government in order to reopen the channels of communication between the two countries. The newspaper pointed out in its report that the Syrian regime wants to return Idleb governorate to the administration of Damascus, and transfer the customs of the Kasab border crossing, along with the Bab al-Hawa crossing, to its control.
Damascus also demanded full control of the commercial corridor between the Bab al-Hawa crossing to Damascus, as well as the M4 trade route between eastern Syria Deir-ez-Zor-Hassakeh and Aleppo-Lattakia. The regime’s final demand is for Turkey not to support European and U.S. sanctions against businessmen and companies close to Damascus.
Moreover, according to the opposition al-Souria Net, Faisal al-Mekdad, is visiting the Russian capital, where he will meet with its foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, to discuss the course of the “constitutional committee” and the “political settlement,” as stated in a Russian statement. Russia, which is the Assad regime’s most prominent backer, plays a role in persuading Ankara to discuss directly with the Syrian regime and forge a path to resolve various issues between the two sides.
In Turkey as well, the statements by Cavusoglu led to many reactions. For example, the deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hayati Yazici, said that indirect relations with the Syrian regime “may become direct, in conjunction with increasing the favourable atmosphere in the future.”
“There are many aspects to solving problems, but dialogue remains the most important aspect of solving problems in international relations,” Yazici told Khabar Global. He noted that dialogue with the Syrian regime has taken on an indirect character during the past period but “at a very specific level.”
He added that this level “has risen a bit today, and the atmosphere that will result from its rise in the future will contribute more to getting out of this quagmire that has existed in Syria for 11 years.”
Regarding the possibility of a direct meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian regime President Bashar al-Assad, Yazici said, “I can’t say for sure whether it happens or not.” He added, “It starts somewhere, and the level can go up as I hope.”
On Wednesday, many Turkish newspapers discussed the issue of restoring relations between the two sides. Amongst these was the newspaper Hurriyet, which published an analytical article by the journalist Sedat Ergin, who is close to the government. The article was titled: “A critical threshold in normalization with the Assad regime has been crossed.”
“It is realistic to expect radical changes in relations between Ankara and Damascus soon. The next path of dialogue between the Assad regime and Turkey will go through a very painful and difficult process in light of the difficult legacy left behind by events over the past 11 years and the actual situation on the ground today,” Ergin said in his article.
He concluded the article by stressing the difficulty of “denying the emergence of a new situation in relationships – time will tell us how this new situation will develop.”
In the Sabah newspaper entitled “The New Period for Syria,” writer Mehmet Berlas tried to justify the statements of the Turkish Foreign Minister regarding rapprochement with the regime. He noted that the development could “liquidate the members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party” while also “making Aleppo livable through cooperation with the legitimate regime in Syria.”
Berlas argued that, by restoring relations, “most of the Syrian refugees in Turkey can return to Syria.” He accused the United States of playing a negative role in what happened in Syria, saying: “We know that one of the victimized countries in the Middle East, which America has upended, is Syria – and the other is Iraq.”
“It is time to lead Syria away from the wrong path, which was paved by Hillary Clinton and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.”
Similarly, according to al-Souria Net, The head of Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, announced his support for the positions of his country’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, on Syria. Bahceli described these positions as “constructive and realistic.”
Bahceli said in his press statements on Monday: “The steps taken by Turkey on Syria are valuable and accurate. Our Foreign Minister’s constructive and realistic words on bringing peace between the Syrian opposition and the Assad regime are a strong hint to seeking a lasting solution. No one should be bothered by this.”
In addition, according to the pro-regime newspaper al-Watan, the Former Turkish Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, confirmed that Erdogan and his former foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu pursued a wrong policy towards Syria that brought relations between the two countries to the point of “collapse” while expressing his support for dialogue with the Syrian government.
When asked about the deterioration of relations between the two countries and then the resurgence of talk, Yakis noted that he welcomes the return of relations after a long break. However, he stressed that Davutoglu was an important factor in their turmoil. Al-Watan added that in recent years, Erdogan’s ruling AKP has seen defections among its members and leaders due to its “authoritarian” approach, debates within the party over its members’ responsibility to support terrorism in Syria, and corruption cases plaguing the party.
Assad keeps pace with the reconciliation news with Turkey
The official news agency SANA said that Assad on Thursday issued the Legislative Decree no. 13 for the year 2022 on providing a package of facilitations and exemptions that ensure a supportive environment to the owners of all forms of economic activities inside the old city of Aleppo, Homs and Deir Ezzor provinces, including the old and heritage souks.
But Lebanese Al-Modon, believes that the decree’s purpose is only “moral, due to the absence of a real impact on the reconstruction in those areas. and return the refugees.”
One economist told Al-Modon that the decree’s “goal is to disperse the opposition by parallel press statements and leaks about reconciliation with Turkey, with a decree indicating practical steps in this regard. He said that the reason for this is that the neighbourhoods in these areas are simple, do not constitute a real impact on the ground, and their goal is moral in general.”