There is no plan for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria’s Idleb governorate and Aleppo countryside, a Turkish military source told a meeting of opposition factions in northwestern Syria.
According to the source, Turkish forces present in those areas are “purely combative” and are deployed in compliance with an agreement concluded in early 2020 between Turkey and Russia within the framework of the Astana Agreement.
“A special meeting was held in northwestern Syria in recent days. It included several opposition soldiers and a Turkish military official,” a Syrian opposition leader told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The meeting, said the source, tackled recent developments in Syria in addition to plans for warmer ties and normalization between Ankara and Damascus.
In a speech during the meeting, the Turkish official stressed that Turkey has no plan or intention to withdraw from Syrian territory, and that this matter is strongly rejected “in the near term.”
The official affirmed that Turkish forces will not be pulled out of the country despite the withdrawal of forces being one of the key conditions of the Syrian regime for agreeing to rapprochement with Ankara.
“Turkish forces in the region are there to confront any advancement of regime forces towards Idleb and the opposition-controlled areas in northwestern Syria,” the official told the meeting.
Moreover, he stressed that opposition factions have every right to confront any advancement attempt by regime forces and crush any attacking force.
“Regime demands for the removal of Turkish forces from Syrian territories are unrealistic,” TRT HABER’s news website quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu as saying on Friday.
Cavusoglu noted that terrorist groups are still a threat in the areas where Turkish forces are stationed in Syria.
“If we withdraw from those lands today, the regime will not rule them. Instead, they will be overrun by terrorist organizations,” he warned.
“This is a danger to us, to the regime, and to all of Syria,” added the minister.
Athr Press (Pro-government) reports on meeting
Amid talk of developments in Syrian-Turkish talks, a Turkish military official held a special meeting in northern Syria with the leaders of Turkey’s factions deployed in the northern countryside of Aleppo and Idleb. The meetings covered Turkish military presence in those areas.
Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted a leader in Turkey’s factions who attended the meeting as saying: “The meeting included several military personnel in the opposition factions and a Turkish military official. During the meeting, the participants discussed the Syrian file and recent developments, as well as the plan for rapprochement between Turkey and Syria and the normalization of relations between the two sides.” The newspaper noted that the Turkish official stressed that, in the short-term, Turkey does not intend to withdraw from Syrian territory.
This meeting comes at a time when intelligence meetings between Damascus and Ankara are growing more frequent. Syria maintains its previous demand that Turkish forces withdraw from northern Syria. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently stressed: “The withdrawal of the Turkish army harms both Turkey and Syria because the area will fall under the control of terrorist organizations.” With this comment, Cavusoglu referred to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), noting that he had addressed this issue in his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Serbia in October 2021. According to Cavusoglu, on that occasion, he told his Syrian counterpart that there must be consensus within Syria to control these areas.
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