Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad will likely meet in Moscow in the early days of spring, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s columnist Mustafa Balbay wrote on Saturday.
As a result of Moscow-brokered rapprochement between the two neighbouring countries, the defence ministers and intelligence heads of Turkey, Syria and Russia met last December. The high-level talks between the countries following more than a decade-long fall out will continue with a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers, expected to be held after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s Washington visit on 17 January.
“It is obvious where all these are heading,” said Mustafa Balbay. “After the foreign ministers, President Erdoğan and Syrian President Assad will come together. This meeting is planned to be held in Moscow unless a last minute change is made,” he said.
The columnist added that according to backstage rumours in Ankara, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Erdoğan that this meeting will be held.
However, while Erdoğan nowadays talks about the benefits of revived relations with Syria without imposing any precondition, according to Assad, a rapprochement is only possible if Turkey withdraws all of its troops from Syria and gives up supporting groups that oppose the Syrian government, Balbay said.
“Since Assad came to a point announcing ‘preconditions’, this meeting will certainly take place. Moreover, if Putin, who played the major role keeping Assad on his feet, wants this meeting, the rest is only a matter of protocol,” the columnist said.
In his first remarks on the future of relations with Turkey, Assad said this week that Erdoğan’s December offer to hold trilateral meetings with Russia “should be coordinated between Syria and Russia … to produce tangible results”.
According to Turkish officials, through rapprochement with Syria, Turkey mainly aims to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees to their homeland and prevent what Ankara calls terrorist threats to Turkey posed by Kurdish armed groups in northeast Syria.