Turkish and Syrian Defence Ministers meet in Moscow with their Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu

Turkey and Syria hold first governmental meeting since 2011

PHOTO/TURKISH INTERIOR MINISTRY - Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar

The Defence Ministers of Turkey, Hulusi Akar, and Syria, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, held a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday, the first between the two governments since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, in which they discussed refugees and the fight against terrorism. 

The meeting, which was also attended by Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, was held in a "constructive atmosphere" and is the first in a format of trilateral meetings to ensure stability in Syria and the region, according to a Turkish defence ministry statement. 

"The meeting discussed the Syrian crisis, the refugee issue and the joint fight against all terrorist organisations on Syrian territory," the statement, published on the ministry's website, said.  

The Turkish government, which has been staunchly opposed to the Syrian regime since the beginning of the war, has for months been announcing a change of attitude and raising the possibility of resuming relations in the context of its plans for a new military intervention in Syria to expel Kurdish groups from its border. 

Ankara considers the Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG), which have maintained a military alliance with the Syrian regime since 2019, to be "terrorists", while Damascus calls the various armed groups fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, many of which are backed by Ankara, "terrorists".  

The last meeting between Turkish and Syrian ministers took place in August 2011 in Damascus, shortly after the Syrian rebellion began, at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was trying to convince Assad to give in to the rebels' demands for democratisation, which he refused.  

In 2012, the two countries severed diplomatic relations and Turkey began to serve as a base for Syrian rebel movements that formed a government in exile, recognised as representatives of the Syrian people by many countries around the world.  

Last month, Erdogan indicated that he was considering resuming relations after Turkey's elections next June.  "In politics there is no eternal resentment, animosity or offence. When the time comes, one sits down, evaluates things and renews them," said at the time.