Syria, Turkey and Russia leaders may meet for peace talks, says Erdogan

President says foreign ministers will hold discussions and build on recent landmark session in Moscow

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a trilateral meeting is on the cards. AP
Powered by automated translation

Turkish, Russian and Syrian leaders may meet to discuss establishing peace in Syria after a foreign ministers' meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

"Depending on the developments, we may come together as the Russian, Turkish, and Syrian leaders. So, our aim is to establish peace and stability in the region," Mr Erdogan said, addressing a meeting of his Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara.

Mr Erdogan said a trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers from Turkey, Russia and Syria would first be held to further develop contacts after landmark talks between defence ministers in Moscow last week.

Turkey has been the primary backer of Syria's opposition for more than a decade of war, while Russia has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Turkey clashed with Damascus after it began backing rebel efforts to topple President Bashar Al Assad at the start of the Syrian civil war 12 years ago.

But Mr Erdogan, who called Mr Al Assad a “terrorist” in 2017, has opened up to the idea of meeting the Syrian leader.

On December 28, the Turkish, Russian, and Syrian defense ministers met in Moscow to discuss counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, and they agreed to continue tripartite meetings to ensure stability in Syria and in the wider region.

Mr Erdogan has suggested that the talks between the defence chiefs be followed up by a meeting between the foreign ministers that could set up a potential presidential summit.

Turkey has restated its support for Syria's opposition, after a recent meeting between the two sides in Ankara.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met Salem Al Meslet, president of Syria's National Coalition for Opposition, and other leaders in the capital on Tuesday.

“We reiterated our support to the Syrian opposition and people in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2254,” Mr Cavusoglu said in reference to a 2015 UN call for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.

The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has ground on into a second decade, although fighting is at a lower intensity than in earlier years.

With backing from Russia and Iran, Mr Al Assad's government has recovered most Syrian territory. Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the northwest, and Kurdish fighters backed by the United States also control territory near the Turkish border.

In Thursday's speech, Mr Erdogan also said he will speak to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the Black Sea grain corridor and fertiliser issue following his phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Updated: January 05, 2023, 1:51 PM