The past days have carried political and field indications that efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime have stalled, despite the great impetus that this path received following the meeting hosted by Moscow at the end of 2022, which brought together the Turkish Minister of Defense and the Head of Intelligence with the Minister of Defense and the Head of General Intelligence of the Syrian regime.
Syrian regime raises demands again
The Syrian regime raised its demands in exchange for the normalization of relations with Turkey. Both Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad renewed in successive statements on January 13th and 14th the demand for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria and to stop supporting “terrorism,” as they described it.
During the visit of the Russian envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, to Damascus, Assad demanded that the meetings between Turkey and Syria sponsored by Russia be based on ending what he described as “occupation” in reference to the Turkish military deployment on Syrian territory.
Sources familiar with the technical committees’ talks between Turkey and the Syrian regime told Syria TV that the first rounds of meetings of these committees showed the contradiction in the interests of the parties. Ankara focuses on the issue of combating the PKK and facilitating the return of refugees, while the Syrian regime places at the top of its priorities the economic issue such as opening international roads and early recovery projects, in addition to its insistence on determining Ankara’s position on the future of its relationship with the Syrian opposition and its continued support.
The sources denied the leaks circulating about the progress of the talks and their arrival at the stage of discussing the fate of northwestern Syria and how to distribute influence in it and allow the return of the institutions of the Syrian regime to it. They stressed that these points had not been discussed so far.
Ankara-based foreign and security policy analyst Omer Özkecek confirmed that there are major differences between Damascus and Ankara, which caused delays in setting the date of the ministerial meeting. The Syrian regime still views the Syrian opposition as its main threat, not the YPG terrorist group.
In a statement to Syria TV, Ozkecek ruled out reaching an agreement between the Syrian regime and Ankara as long as the regime is not ready to advance on a political solution under Resolution 2254.
“Damascus has attended meetings with Turkey so far because of intense Russian pressure, but I don’t think Russia wants or can impose an agreement on the Assad regime.”
The analyst explained that there is a realization in Ankara of the futility of cooperation with the Syrian regime in the field of combating YPG terrorism and facilitating the return of refugees. However, the Turkish opposition promoted the need to communicate with the Syrian regime and convinced public opinion of this, forcing the ruling party to take recent steps.
It is likely that Iran will play a negative role in the progress of relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime because it often fears a Turkish-Russian understanding, which weakens Iranian influence. What gives a clear indication of this is that the Syrian regime’s Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Mekdad stressed the demand for the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria during his meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Hossein Abdollahian. It seems to be a double message to both Ankara and Moscow that Assad has other options, such as close cooperation with Iran in confronting any attempts to force him to make concessions.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. 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.