Syria-Turkey meetings should aim to end 'occupation', says Assad

The conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands

A banner featuring President Bashar Al Assad hangs in the Syrian capital of Damascus. AFP
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Syria's President Bashar Al Assad has said that Russia-mediated talks with Turkey should aim for the end of Turkish “occupation” of parts of his country.

The nations' two foreign ministers could meet as soon as February, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, in what would be the highest-level meeting since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011.

In his first public comments on the increasing contact between the two nations, Mr Al Assad said: “For these meetings to be productive, they should be founded on co-ordination and advanced planning between Syria and Russia.”

The aim of talks should be “ending the occupation and support for terrorism”, he continued.

The Turkish and Syrian defence ministers held landmark talks in Moscow last month to discuss border security and other issues. Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he may meet Mr Al Assad after a trilateral foreign ministers meeting.

The conflict in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions and drawn in regional and world powers, has ground on into a second decade, although fighting has cooled.

With backing from Russia and Iran, the Assad government has recovered most of Syria's territory. Turkish-backed opposition fighters still control a pocket in the north-west and Kurdish fighters backed by the US control territory near the Turkish border.

The US does not support countries re-establishing ties with Assad. It has joined forces with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG militia, in fighting ISIS in the country.

Updated: January 12, 2023, 5:24 PM