Head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk have recently met in Damascus.
The Daily Sabah newspaper, close to the Turkish government, revealed details of the meeting, which it said was an attempt to form a roadmap for the safe return of Syrians who sought refuge in Türkiye.
It pointed out that both sides discussed issues they consider a top priority, as well as the main articles in the road map that must be followed, stressing that tangible outcomes of the talks will take some time.
It quoted sources as indicating that discussions tackled the safe return of all asylum seekers, returning the properties to their owners, creating working and employment conditions, and ensuring that no verdicts are issued against Syrians wishing to return home.
The Turkish side underscored the importance of canceling Law No. 10, which the Syrian government passed on April 2, 2018 and allows for creating redevelopment zones across Syria that will be designated for reconstruction.
The law stipulates that people who own property in the zone are to be notified and have 30 days to provide proof of ownership. If they fail to do so, they will not be compensated, and ownership reverts to the province, town, or city where the property is located.
However, human rights activists considered it a mass punishment for Syrian citizens who sought refuge abroad.
The newspaper further pointed out that the regime requested the withdrawal of Turkish forces from all Syrian territories.
The Turkish delegation affirmed that Ankara is committed to Syria’s territorial integrity, but stated that these demands can be evaluated later, provided that the constitutional process is completed, free elections are held, and the Adana Anti-Terror Agreement signed between the two countries in 1998 is renewed.
Reuters quoted four sources as noting that Fidan and Mamlouk held multiple meetings over the last few weeks, a sign of Russian efforts to encourage a thaw between states on opposite sides of Syria’s war.
The contacts reflect a Russian policy shift as Moscow steels itself for a protracted conflict in Ukraine and seeks to secure its position in Syria, where its forces have supported President Bashar al-Assad since 2015, according to two Turkish officials and the regional source.
During the meetings, Fidan – one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest confidants – and Mamlouk evaluated how the two countries’ foreign ministers could eventually meet, according to a senior Turkish official and a Turkish security source.
“Russia wants Syria and Türkiye to overcome their problems and achieve certain agreements…which are in the interest of everyone, both Türkiye and Syria,” said the Turkish official.
However, one big challenge is Türkiye’s desire to include Syrian rebels in any talks with Damascus, the official added.
The Turkish security official said Russia has gradually withdrawn some military resources from Syria in order to focus on Ukraine, and had asked Türkiye to normalize relations with Assad to “accelerate a political solution” in Syria.
The Damascus-allied source said Russia had nudged Syria to enter talks as Moscow seeks to nail down its position and that of Assad in case it must redeploy forces to Ukraine.
The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.§