According to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, discussions aimed at normalizing relations between Turkey and the Assad regime have hit a standstill since autumn of 2023. The impasse stems from a disagreement concerning “guarantees.”
On Wednesday, Turkish writer Sedat Argen asserted that the halt in the normalization process is attributed to the Syrian regime’s inability to secure an official commitment from Turkey regarding the withdrawal of its forces from Syria.
He emphasized, “The matter of guarantees is a focal point on this year’s agenda.”
“Written and binding” warranties
A few days ago, Alexander Lavrentyev, the Russian envoy to Syria, emphasized the necessity of obtaining guarantees for the long-term withdrawal of Turkish military units from Syrian territory. According to him, official Turkish statements suggest that withdrawal will occur “sooner or later” under specific conditions.
Notably, as reported by Hurriyet, there is a conspicuous absence of assurances regarding the imminent withdrawal of these forces. Lavrentyev’s remarks imply that the Assad government is seeking written and binding guarantees, rejecting verbal assurances from Turkey.
Senior Turkish officials, including the president and the defence and foreign ministers, have outlined conditions for withdrawal from Syria. These conditions include achieving a final political solution addressing Turkey’s terrorism concerns and the formulation of a new constitution.
Given the current situation on the ground in Syria and the ongoing crisis, it appears unlikely that a political resolution is imminent. The stalemate involves key players such as the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with the prospect of continuation unless there are unforeseen developments, such as a sudden change in the U.S. position leading to its departure from Syria.
The enduring stalemate could persist unless the regime victorious in the civil war believes that time is on its side and rejects power-sharing with the opposition, potentially prolonging the existing situation in Syria for years to come.
What are the results of the Russian endeavours?
The writer anticipates that Russian diplomacy will persist in its endeavours to facilitate normalization between Turkey and the Syrian regime, particularly highlighting Alexander Lavrentyev’s assertion that the “issue of Turkish-Syrian normalization comes at the forefront of Russia’s view of the solution in Syria.”
He notes a prevailing trend suggesting that the quest for normalization between Turkey and the regime is consolidating within the Astana process involving Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the Assad regime. The writer emphasizes that the normalization process is evolving not solely at a bilateral level but within a quadrilateral framework.
The advancement of dialogue between Ankara and the Syrian regime has encountered an obstacle during the formulation of the “road map,” primarily due to conflicting priorities concerning the “withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria.” The specific details and the timeline for implementing the roadmap in Syria remain undisclosed by any party involved.
The most recent meeting between Turkish officials and representatives of the Syrian regime occurred in June during the twentieth Astana talks. Following this meeting, the newspaper Yeni Safak, with close ties to the Turkish government, reported that Ankara presented four conditions to the Assad regime, including “constitutional amendment, fair elections, the honorable and secure return of refugees, and collaboration in combating terrorism by the PKK and the People’s Protection Units.”
Despite the regime’s insistence on the withdrawal of Turkish forces from northern Syria as a prerequisite for any normalization process, Turkish officials argue that this demand is “unrealistic” due to persisting “terrorist threats” emanating from the border region.
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.