The Special Envoy to Syria from the Russian President, Alexander Lavrentyev, has officially stated that the attempt to normalize relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime has failed. He emphasized that there are no plans for President Bashar al-Assad to visit Russia in the near future.
Lavrentyev revealed to the Russian news agency TASS that the attempts to normalize relations between Ankara and Damascus collapsed towards the end of 2023. He explained that since last fall, the process has halted to some extent. The primary reason cited is the Syrian regime’s insistence on obtaining guarantees for the long-term withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria.
According to Lavrentyev, the withdrawal of Turkish forces is deemed unacceptable by the Turkish side for specific reasons. While no official commitment to an immediate withdrawal has been made, Turkish officials have conveyed that it will occur under specific and favourable conditions. The Russian envoy highlighted former Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s informal mention of Turkey’s intention to withdraw, emphasizing that the reluctance to make it official poses a significant obstacle for Damascus. This is because the Syrian people might not comprehend their government’s negotiations with countries occupying parts of its territory, almost equivalent to the size of Lebanon.
Lavrentyev underscored that the normalization of Syrian-Turkish relations remains a priority in Russia’s approach to the Syrian settlement. He stated, “We believe that this is a very important issue, and we need to make progress on it.”
In 2023, Lavrentyev noted extensive efforts to achieve normalization, including not just expert-level meetings but also a progression from a tripartite to a quadripartite dialogue with the inclusion of Iran. Meetings involved defense ministers, foreign ministers, and deputy ministers, reflecting the active engagement in seeking a resolution.
Assad will not visit Moscow
On the flip side, Lavrentyev emphasized that President Assad has no plans to visit Moscow in the near future. He reiterated the explanation that “the current stage does not necessitate special meetings.” Lavrentyev clarified that Assad’s presence in Syria is crucial at the moment to expedite solutions to pressing challenges, particularly those of a social and economic nature.
He pointed out that addressing these challenges is imperative as Syria continues to grapple with the severe impact of unilateral sanctions, exerting a devastating effect not only on the economy but also on the lives of ordinary Syrians. Lavrentyev stressed the urgency of tackling these issues, given the substantial influence of sanctions on the nation.
Regarding the Constitutional Committee, the Russian envoy mentioned that meetings may resume in March after an 18-month hiatus. He disclosed that an alternative venue might be selected in mid to late February following Oman’s withdrawal from consideration.
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.