(Photo credit: AP)
Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told media on 29 December that Ankara is willing to withdraw from the territory it occupies in northern Syria and hand it over to Damascus in the event that “political stability” is reached.
Cavusoglu’s comments came just one day after a high-level meeting in Moscow between the defense ministers of Turkiye, Russia, and Syria, aimed at ensuring “stability in Syria and the region.” This was the first ministerial meeting between Syria and Turkiye since 2011.
Speaking to reporters, the Turkish Foreign Minister also said that it was possible to establish a joint mechanism between Damascus and Ankara aimed at ‘fighting terrorism.’
Cavusoglu also lauded his country’s ‘respect’ for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, claiming that its occupation is solely based on combatting terror and “securing stability,” something he said the Syrian authorities were incapable of doing.
He went on to say that Turkiye would continue fighting terrorism in Syria, despite the hindrances posed by “political differences” between Ankara and Damascus.
Recently, both the US and Russia have been attempting to mediate a withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the Turkish border with Syria to prevent a long-promised Turkish ground offensive from taking place. This potential ground offensive comes under the pretext of avenging the deadly 13 October Istanbul blast.
In order to prevent the offensive, Russia has offered a complete pullback of the SDF from the Turkish border, as Ankara has requested.
Although Moscow has been negotiating a potential redeployment of Syrian troops to this area, Washington has been seeking to compromise Russia’s mediation efforts by reviving an inactive Islamist militia north of the country – with the intention of placing them on the border, thereby preventing a handover of the territory to Damascus.
From Syria’s perspective, genuine negotiations with Turkiye are unlikely to begin until Ankara accepts a complete withdrawal of its forces from Syria.
Although Washington plans to compromise an eventual return of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to the Turkish border, Cavusoglu’s latest comments signify a potential Turkish willingness to make concessions.