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Turkish FM hints at normalizing ties with neighboring Syria after more than a decade

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu addresses the 13th Ambassadors Conference in Ankara, Turkey, on August 11, 2022. (Photo by Anadolu news agency)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has indicated his country’s plan to mend diplomatic relations with neighboring Syria, which were downgraded in the aftermath of the foreign-sponsored conflict in the Arab country, amid moves by the government of President Bashar al-Assad to gradually return to the Arab fold and the internationals arena.

Addressing the 13th Ambassadors Conference in the capital Ankara on Thursday, Cavusoglu stated that he had a brief conservation with his Syrian counterpart Faisal al-Mekdad on the sidelines of the two-day Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade last October.

The top Turkish diplomat stressed the need for reconciliation between opposition groups and the Damascus government, stating that there will be no lasting peace in the war-ravaged country until such an ideal is achieved.

“There must be a powerful government in place to prevent the partition of Syria, and there must be an administration that can control the country's entire territories. This can only be attained through unity,” Cavusoglu said.

The remarks came a week after the Turkish foreign minister said Ankara is prepared to assist the Syrian government in its efforts to flush out members of the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militant group from energy-rich areas in northeastern Syria.

Cavusoglu told the Turkish-language TV1000 television news station that his nation is prepared to cooperate with Damascus in such a campaign.

“We will give all kinds of political support to the work of the [Syrian] regime in this regard. It is the most natural right of the regime to clear a terrorist organization in its own territory,” the top Turkish diplomat said.

Earlier this year, Turkish media reported that Ankara was evaluating the possibility of starting talks with the Syrian government and that discussions were underway for new relations to be built between the two neighbors.

Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, citing informed sources, asserted on April 4 that discussions were taking place in the Turkish capital of Ankara on restoring normal relations.

"The balanced policy recently adopted by Turkey and the role that Ankara has played in recent months, especially in resolving the war in Ukraine, have made the current time appropriate for resolving the Syrian crisis,” the Turkish daily said.

Citing the sources, the paper said the already existing relations between Damascus and Ankara can be improved and that the current situation may open a new door of opportunities for Turkey, especially for resolving the Syrian issue and the question of the militants of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey has deployed forces in Syria in violation of the Arab country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ankara-backed militants were deployed to northeastern Syria in October 2019 after Turkish military forces launched a long-threatened cross-border invasion in a declared attempt to push YPG fighters away from border areas.

Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown PKK, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior officials have said Damascus will respond through all legitimate means available to Turkey's ongoing ground offensive.

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