Militants from factions affiliated with Turkiye parading the flag of the Syrian revolution. (Photo Credit: Cavit Ozgul via AP/TASS)
The US Department of State spokesman, Ned Price, expressed his dissatisfaction with Turkiye’s rapprochement with the Syrian government in a press conference on 3 January.
Price added that the US calls on its allies and international partners to refrain from normalizing ties with Damascus, and stressed the need to avoid upgrading relations.
“We do not support countries upgrading their relations or expressing support to rehabilitate the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. We urge states to carefully consider the Assad regime’s atrocious human rights record,” Price said in regard to Ankara’s efforts.
The spokesman’s remarks are in reference to the first high-level meeting since 2011 between Turkish and Syrian defense officials that took place in Moscow in December 2022.
The tripartite talks were described as “constructive” and tackled various topics of shared concerns, including the refugee crisis and the effort to fight terrorist-designated groups in Syria.
However, Turkish officials did not feel concerned with the implicit US threats and placed their national security ahead of any political repercussions.
This was expressed in a statement by the Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar on 4 January, who suggested they might increase cooperation with Russia in Syria and establish additional joint patrols to ensure border security.
“Necessary agreements were reached [between Turkiye and Russia]. This process will continue with the establishment of joint centers, resumption of joint patrols, and meeting of experts,” Akar said to reporters at the parliament.
He then elaborated on his meeting with his Syrian counterpart Ali Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow and the need to work with Damascus to “fight against terrorism.”
Akar proceeded to express Turkiye’s inability to host more Syrian refugees and seeks ways to reestablish peace by deporting refugees in a “voluntary, safe and dignified way.”
Ankara views cooperation with Damascus as a cornerstone to resolving the refugee crisis and ensuring border security. Akar considers the continuation of tripartite meetings as “reasonable, logical, and successful.”
Earlier in December 2022, Akar stressed Turkiye’s respect for the sovereignty of Syria and announced their presence in the country is limited to fighting Turkish-designated terrorist groups, such as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
As a result, it was alleged that Turkiye has agreed to fully withdraw its forces from Syrian territories as part of a broad solution to end the crisis in the country, according to anonymous Syrian officials.
The matter was not confirmed by any Turkish official. However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced his intention to host his Syrian counterpart to resume the dialogue.
“We are planning to hold a meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, Syria, and Turkiye, in the next stage, as a second stage of the road map,” Cavusoglu said.
In addition, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held a meeting with the chairman of the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, Salem al Meslet, and the president of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, according to Anadolu news agency.
Met w/President of SOC @pofsoc, President of SNC @JamousBader & Head of SIG @STMAbdurrahman. Addressed the recent developments regarding #Syria.
Reiterated our support for the Syrian Opposition & the Syrian people in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254. pic.twitter.com/6lsRyv3YoE
— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) January 3, 2023