Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers could meet in early May

Move could 'pave the way to a leaders' meeting'

Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue, decorated with Turkish national flags. Reuters
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The foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, Iran and Syria may hold talks early next month as part of Moscow's attempt to help broker a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments to a broadcaster on Monday.

Nato alliance member Turkey has been a major backer of the political and armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad during a 12-year civil war, and has sent its own troops into swathes of the country's north.

“The meeting will most probably take place in early May, in Moscow,” Mr Cavusoglu told broadcaster A Haber, saying it could lead to a leaders' meeting.

Syrian and Turkish defence ministers held talks in Moscow in December, in the highest-level encounter since the war began.

Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said last month during a meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Al Assad that a Turkey-Syria rapprochement would be on the agenda.

“Turkey-Syria relations will certainly be touched upon in one way or another,” Mr Peskov said.

Moscow is Mr Al Assad's main ally and Russia has encouraged a reconciliation with Ankara, but Damascus has demanded a full withdrawal of Turkish troops for relations to be restored.

Before the 2011 conflict, Syria was one of Turkey’s largest trading partners in the Middle East, with bilateral trade in 2010 worth around $2.5 billion. At the time, Mr Erdogan pursued a foreign policy called “zero problems with neighbours.”

Relations between the two countries soured bitterly amid accusations that Turkey was harbouring militant groups, including organisations linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS, in a bid to topple the government in Damascus.

Trade has picked up again in recent years, but mainly between Turkey and areas under rebel control, where militias backed and funded by Ankara hold sway in strips of land along Syria’s northern border.

Much of this trade has been disrupted by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, shattering an already fragile economy in Syria after 12 years of war.

Updated: April 11, 2023, 6:00 PM