'Constructive' talks held with Russia, Iran and Syria, Turkey says

Defence ministers discuss 'concrete' steps to normalise Turkey-Syria relations

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, third right, and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, third left, attend the talks in Moscow. AP
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Turkey's Defence Ministry said “constructive” talks were held on Tuesday with representatives from Russia, Iran and Syria, as Damascus seeks to step out of its decade-long isolation.

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar met his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu, Iranian Defence Minister Mohammed Reza Ashtiani and Syrian Defence Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow.

The four ministers discussed “strengthening the security situation in Syria” and concrete steps to be taken to normalise relations between Turkey and Syria, a readout from Ankara said.

The “constructive” talks emphasised the need for further meetings between the four nations “in order to ensure and maintain stability in Syria and the region as a whole”, Mr Akar said.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow or Tehran.

Damascus later released a statement saying the ministers discussed the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria and enacting an agreement on the M4 motorway, which intersects territory held by Damascus, Turkish-backed forces in the north-west and Kurdish-led Syrian forces.

Turkey and Syria severed ties in 2011 following Damascus‘s crackdown on protesters. The country was soon after plunged into civil war.

Ankara has for several years occupied large parts of northern Syria, along with allied militias, saying it is needed to counter US-backed Kurdish groups that Turkey accuses of terrorism.

On Monday, Mr Akar said the aim of the talks was to “bring peace to the region as soon as possible”.

Saudi Arabia is among the regional powers looking to bring Damascus back into the diplomatic fold.

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited Syria earlier this month in the first such trip since before the civil war began in 2011, while ministers from other Gulf Co-operation Council countries have also met to discuss its potential return to the Arab League.

Tunisia has also said it will reappoint an ambassador to Damascus after severing relations in 2012.

Updated: April 25, 2023, 2:59 PM