Erdogan wished to meet Assad in Samarkand

Erdogan wished to meet Assad in Samarkand

A report published by “Reuters” and an article published by a Turkish journalist close to the government re-talked again about the stations of the relationship between Turkey and the Syrian regime, after the past weeks witnessed a large number of analyzes and assessments of the situation, which were issued after a “new chapter” referred to by Turkish officials.

And Reuters wrote, on Thursday, that the head of the Turkish intelligence service, Hakan Fidan, held more than one meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Ali Mamlouk, in the past few weeks.

It quoted one of four unnamed sources as saying that “the last meeting took place this week,” and that the two men talked about “how the foreign ministers of the two countries met.”

At a time when the Turkish side did not issue any comment, and so did the Syrian regime, the journalist close to the government, Abdelkader Selvi, published an article in the Hurriyet newspaper, in which he spoke that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “expressed his desire” to meet the President of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

Erdogan expressed this position at a closed meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party, on Monday, according to Selvi, noting that the Turkish president said: “I wish Assad had come to Uzbekistan, I would have spoken to him. But he cannot come there. He went to “War with dissidents to preserve his power. He chose to protect his power. He believed that he would protect the areas he controlled, but he could not protect large areas.”

“Sochi Station”

Over the past weeks, a lot of controversy arose, after Turkish officials, led by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and then Erdogan, went to talk about their country’s relationship with the Syrian regime, while their words hinted at a “change that has occurred”, according to observers.

Sochi station played the most prominent role in everything that happened, as the “change” seemed remarkable after the meeting between Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on August 5th.

The bilateral meeting witnessed Putin offering Erdogan an “approach”, according to which Turkey, if it wants to carry out a military operation in northern Syria, should “talk about it with the Syrian regime.”

The Turkish writer Selvi considered that “just as there are no eternal friendships between countries, there are no eternal enmities,” and that the recent meeting between the two leaders gave an indication of “a change in Turkey’s policy towards Assad.”

He also added that President Erdogan’s words that “we have no problem in defeating Assad or not” also indicate that “a new era has entered,” going to refer to “the Hakan Fidan movement that has accelerated in Damascus,” and that “the safe return of Syrian refugees is now under negotiation.” “.

Although the “change in Turkish policy” toward the Syrian regime seemed to be a reality on the ground to some extent, the “tracks for restoring relations” seem so far “ambiguous”, according to observers.

In parallel, there are speculations about what will happen in the coming days, and whether Ankara and Damascus will achieve any “violation”, given the thorny issues between them, as well as another question related to intelligence communication that has developed to unprecedented levels, with Fidan’s arrival in the Syrian capital, if reports are true. Reuters.

Turkish journalist and researcher, Levent Kemal, does not see the high-level talks between Turkish and Syrian intelligence as “exclusive”, as they began in 2015, and continued even during the Turkish operations in Syria.

Kamal explains to Al-Hurra: “There have been ongoing negotiations at the intelligence level between Turkey and the Assad regime. However, there has been no diplomatic meeting at the ministerial level so far.”

Nevertheless, “we may see a meeting at the level of deputy ministers in the future,” according to the researcher, but he believes that “the time is still early.”

For this step to happen, Kamal adds: “The Assad regime must say yes to a political solution without any conditions.”

This word (yes) makes the statements of the Syrian regime’s Foreign Minister, Faisal Miqdad “a difficult matter”, who had spoken from the capital, Moscow, weeks ago that “Damascus has entitlements, not conditions.”

Al-Miqdad demanded that Turkey withdraw from northern Syria, and “not remain even within a millimeter of territory.”

Damascus-based political analyst Ghassan Youssef notes that Miqdad’s words were “the only statement on the part of the Syrian state regarding what was issued by Ankara.”

In an interview with Al-Hurra, Youssef considers that what is happening now can be put “in the framework of the media process on the Turkish side, and as a step to prepare for what is happening in secret.”

“If there are actually meetings and announced between the Turkish and Syrian sides, this matter is also put in the context of feeling the pulse and exchanging views to reach solutions. There are many problems between Turkey and Syria.”

Youssef believes: “What is happening may be a dialogue in order to agree on the main points that can be built upon. In the sense that we have not yet reached the stage of dialogue. Each party determines the points of disagreement that it looks at.”

‘An opportunity to bridge the gaps’

According to what a Turkish source told Reuters, Russia recently transferred some of its forces from Syria to Ukraine, while calling on Turkey to “develop its relations with Damascus and accelerate the political solution in Syria,” and that Turkey does not want to see Iranian-backed forces settle in the areas that withdrew. Including Russia.

After 2011, relations between Turkey and the Syrian regime deteriorated to a large extent, and reached the stage of “estrangement”.

At the present time, after 9 months of 2022, Ankara continues to spread in areas in northern Syria, and supports the anti-Assad military and political opposition factions, while stressing the need for a political solution to Syria, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2254.

Journalist Levant Kemal says that “Moscow expects Ankara to participate effectively against Iran’s expansion in the event of its relative withdrawal from Syria because of its position in Ukraine,” and that “the way to this is through dialogue with Damascus, albeit at a low level.”

Turkey sees the above situation as “an opportunity for various stages to bridge the gaps left by Russia by establishing a relative dialogue with the Assad regime.”

These gaps relate first to “working more comfortably against the threat of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).”

As for the second, Kamal adds: “It is to find a place for the Syrian opposition in the political solution and then in power,” noting: “The third is to stand in the face of the existing Iranian expansion through radical takfiri Shiite groups in Syria.”

The Turkish researcher considered that “Turkey also considers it logical to establish a relative relationship with the regime in line with these strategic goals, despite all the criticisms.”

From a realistic perspective, according to the journalist’s point of view, “Turkey’s positive approach includes moderation that puts the Assad regime under pressure from these files: the opposition, the People’s Protection Units, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and Iran.”

He added: “The fact that the regime, which did not respond to this, and refused the dialogue path extended to it in the following operations, strengthens Ankara’s hand politically and in terms of legitimacy in its actions. Because Ankara realizes what Assad cannot do.”

But the political analyst, Ghassan Youssef, believes that the matter is different from that, stressing that “the Turkish side is the one who announces these matters. Erdogan’s words have become normal, perhaps after his visit to Sochi. He has come to see that Assad is not an enemy and must be overthrown.”

“What distinguishes everything that is happening on the Turkish side is that it is the one who declares and announces and he is the one who says,” while “the Syrian side is still obsessed with information, and does not announce the meetings that are taking place,” according to Youssef.

What’s Next?

Meanwhile, Hurriyet columnist Abdelkader Selvi believes that “the process of repairing relations will accelerate after the Shanghai meeting.”

He explains his speech by saying: “Before the Ukraine war, Putin did not want Turkey to have a direct relationship with Assad. However, after Ukraine, he began to suggest establishing direct contact with the regime himself. This situation is considered important in diplomacy. When Putin offers this opportunity, the Erdogan is not pushing it too far. On the contrary, it is better to evaluate the new operation.”

Erdogan, who is in Uzbekistan for the Shanghai meeting, is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Friday. This will be the second meeting of the two leaders in 40 days.

Journalist Levent Kemal considers that “the intelligence talks between Turkey and Assad are very useful in terms of keeping the direct tension between the two countries at a certain level.”

“Despite the many problems between Turkey and the regime, these talks succeeded in keeping the two countries out of open war,” he says.

But on the other hand, issues such as “a political solution, a democratic system, democratic rights, honorable return, punishment for war crimes, and reparations are not the subject of intelligence talks.” “These are the main problems in Syria,” according to the journalist.

Its solution does not depend on the reconciliation of Turkey and the Assad regime only, but “the solution to the Syrian issue lies in achieving an international consensus on Resolution 2254, with the guarantee and supervision of the United Nations.”

“Diplomacy between Turkey and Assad can lead to a political solution to these terms. Otherwise, diplomacy is meaningless if Assad does not make any concessions. Turkey has made its position very clear on this issue many times,” adds Kemal.

In turn, political analyst Ghassan Youssef says: “We will wait and see,” commenting on what the relationship between Turkey and the Syrian regime will witness in the next stage.

Youssef considered that “Turkey today is in a difficult situation because of the presence of Syrian refugees and also because of the elections,” adding: “The Justice and Development Party wants to zero the problems with Syria as it zeroed in with other countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. It wants to turn Turkey into a Middle Eastern economic center.” That is why he realizes that the economic benefit is much better than the hostility of the neighbours!”

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