Erdogan's government offers to talk to al-Assad after 12 years of diplomatic rift

Turkey reaches out to Syria again

PHOTO/ Vyacheslav Prokofyev, Sputnik, Kremlinvia AP - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ankara wants to reach out to Damascus again twelve years after diplomatic relations with Syria were severed following the outbreak of civil war. According to Erdogan's government, Turkey is now ready to hold talks with Damascus at a time when the Turkish army is reportedly waging major military operations in parts of Iraq and Syria against the PKK Kurds, who are considered terrorists by Ankara.

Thus, Turkey continues to try to take steps in favour of Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavasoglu revealed that talks had been held with his Syrian counterpart, although these were not confirmed by Damascus. Erdogan told a press conference that both Turkey's relations with Syria and the dialogue itself "cannot be cut off between states".


This shift by Turkey is part of Erdogan's new diplomatic phase as he seeks to establish himself as a strong and reliable country in the region. Although the Turkish president has been one of the most critical of al-Assad's presidency and his government has been accused of having employed jihadist mercenaries against him, Turkey now intends to re-establish closer ties 'without conditions'.

Similarly, this possible rapprochement may have been encouraged by Russia after Moscow proposed in talks with Turkey that Turkey and Syria should work together to maintain a 'safe zone'


Along these lines, it is possible that Erdogan will try to make a direct approach to al-Assad next September in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, to which both are invited. 

For the Syrian opposition in Turkey this gesture has been met with deep criticism as millions of Syrian refugees are under 'temporary protection' status in Turkey. In the face of mounting public pressure, Erdogan has reportedly pledged to return the millions of refugees to Syria in a gesture that has also met with no response from Damascus.


What the al-Assad government has openly criticised is the presence of Turkish military personnel in Syria. Damascus has openly called on Turkey to withdraw its forces from Syrian territory, while Ankara sees the presence of its troops as beneficial to both countries because they would be aimed at eliminating "the terrorist threat"

Since Turkey began its military operations against Kurdish targets in northern Syria, specifically in the cities of Tel Rifaat and Manbij, thousands of Kurds have been killed by its offensives and bombardments. Kurdish military organisations such as the YPG, the armed wing of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the YPJ, the Women's Protection Units, Turkey's bitter enemies, played a key role in the Syrian civil conflict after overthrowing the jihadists who had taken over a large part of Syrian territory and established Raqa as the capital of their Caliphate


Both organisations have systematically denounced Turkey for having carried out numerous human rights violations against both their members and the Kurdish civilian population, as well as killings and unjust imprisonments.

Today, the pro-Kurdish political organisation HDP is the third largest parliamentary force in Turkey and over the years has faced a tortuous path to continued existence. In this context, Erdogan's government has tried to outlaw it and eliminate it from political life in Turkey, something it has so far failed to achieve. Meanwhile, with only a year to go before elections are held in Turkey, Erdogan, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), is being increasingly rejected by society and losing supporters at a frantic pace.

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