Turkey's foreign minister says 'no preconditions' for talks with Syria

Comments by Mevlut Cavusoglu may signal bid by Ankara to improve strained relations with Damascus

Syrian protesters demonstrate against a Turkish proposal urging reconciliation with the country's government, in the town of Azaz, in rebel-held territory in Aleppo province. AFP
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Turkey has set no preconditions for talks with Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, in an apparent bid to improve ties suspended since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.

“There cannot be a condition for dialogue, but what is the aim of these contacts? The country needs to be cleared of terrorists … People need to be able to return,” Mr Cavusoglu told local broadcaster Haber Global.

He said any dialogue needs to be “goal-oriented”.

This month has seen tension rise as Turkish forces killed several Syrian troops during attacks on Kurdish targets in northern Syria.

Syria had previously called such assaults by Turkey a breach in the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of the country.

Despite poor relations, the two countries remained in touch as Mr Cavusoglu earlier revealed when he said he spoke to his Syrian counterpart last year.

Last week, Turkish president Racip Tayyip Erdogan said there was a need to take “further steps with Syria”, Turkish media reported.

Mr Cavusoglu had also called for reconciliation between the Syrian government and its opposition. However, his comments were met with angry protests among Syria's rebels who rejected the proposal.

Syria's conflict started after President Bashar Al Assad launched a deadly crackdown on protesters in 2011 that quickly descended into civil war.

Many external powers, including Turkey, Russia, Iran and the US, have been involved, further complicating the situation.

Turkey also hosts more than four million Syrian refugees who fled their country after the war began.

In May, Mr Erdogan said he would launch a plan to return a quarter of the refugees to their country.

Updated: August 23, 2022, 1:12 PM