The Turkish-Syrian normalization process has hit a roadblock, with tensions escalating between the two parties. This development has garnered attention both in the Arab world and globally, with concerns mounting over the ongoing Israeli occupation of Gaza.
Initially, there were hopes that this normalization effort would bring together Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. However, it appears that the plan, which had Russian involvement, has not progressed as expected. Notably, there have been no official statements regarding this process from Turkish authorities, the Syrian regime, or their Russian sponsor.
A recent statement by the Syrian regime’s Foreign Minister, Faisal al-Mekdad, during a meeting with an Armenian National Assembly delegation led by Hagop Arshakyan, underscores the growing tension. Mekdad called on Turkey to cease its regional escalation and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. This statement reflects the regime’s desire to compete with Turkey and highlights the unresolved issues between the two parties.
One major point of contention is the Syrian regime’s insistence on the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Syria. In contrast, Turkey argues that this demand cannot be met as long as American-backed Kurdish units, leading the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), remain in the region. Ankara believes that a comprehensive political solution is required to address the Syrian situation. Additionally, the Syrian refugee issue further complicates the situation.
Omar Ozkizelcik, a Turkish foreign policy and security researcher in Ankara, asserts that the normalization of relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime has faced obstacles from the start. He believes that the majority of balanced expectations did not anticipate any significant progress. According to Ozkizelcik, negotiations began primarily due to Turkish elections and Russian pressure. Turkey entered these talks to de-escalate tensions with Russia regarding its support for Ukraine. However, he believes that the Syrian regime will not be able to meet Turkish demands, as Ankara cannot withdraw from Syria or abandon its support for the Syrian opposition.
Turkey’s demands, as reported by Turkish media, include ending the presence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its armed elements in Syria, advancing the political process with opposition involvement, and overseeing the return of refugees to Syrian governorates like Aleppo.
In May, former Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with his counterpart in the Syrian regime, Faisal al-Miqdad, in Moscow. Russia announced a roadmap for normalization, but Ozkizelcik describes these negotiations as “disastrous.” He highlights the Syrian regime delegation’s insistence on ending the “illegitimate” Turkish military presence as a major sticking point.
Ozkizelcik also reveals that Bashar al-Assad criticized Erdogan shortly after the Moscow meeting, accusing him of pursuing an expansionist agenda reminiscent of the Ottoman era during a speech at the Jeddah Summit, his first participation in the Arab League after his return.
In light of these developments, it is evident that the Syrian regime is quick to criticize Turkey on various occasions, including the recent meeting with the Armenian delegation. This demonstrates that the regime views Turkey and the Syrian opposition, rather than the United States or the People’s Protection Units, as the primary threats to Syria’s stability.
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.