Reuters reported that despite Russia’s mediation efforts, Syrian President Bashar Assad has resisted meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to a Reuters report based on three different Syrian sources, Assad rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to meet with Erdoğan.
Two of the sources said Damascus believes such a meeting could support Erdoğan ahead of next year’s Turkish elections, especially if Ankara addresses its goal of repatriating some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees from Turkey.
Stating that there will be no rapprochement before the upcoming Turkish elections, the source said, “Why hand Erdoğan victory for free?” He added that Syria had also turned down the idea of a foreign ministers’ meeting.
A third source, a Syrian diplomat, said Damascus “sees such a meeting as useless if it does not come with anything concrete, and what they have asked for so far is the full withdrawal of Turkish troops.”
The Turkish government has been conducting military operations into Syria since 2016. Turkish President Erdoğan said on a state-run television channel in 2019 that his aim was to “keep accumulation under control” in Kurdish regions in North and East Syria.
Turkey has been launching airstrikes on northern Syria and Iraq since 20 November. Turkish officials said the country’s cross-border military operations against the Kurdish regions in Syria and Iraq would continue uninterrupted and that a new ground operation could start at any time alongside the ongoing airstrikes.
After a decade of open hostility, Erdoğan first stated his desire to reconcile with the Assad regime in August.
Russia would need Turkey and Syria to reach an agreement in order to direct its troops towards Ukraine without losing power in the latter. Moscow has been gradually withdrawing military resources from Syria since early summer, but does not wish to see Iranian influence expanding in the region.
However, Assad considers NATO member Turkey’s soldiers in Syria as invaders, while the Turkish government wants to include Syrian rebels in any talks with Damascus, Reuters said, citing a Turkish source.
Also, two Turkish sources, including a senior official, objected the idea that Damascus refused to meet with Erdoğan and said to Reuters that negotiations were going well for a final meeting between the leaders.