People took to the streets in Turkish-held Syrian territories on Thursday night, following the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s earlier comments on talks with Syrian regime officials.
Thousands in Idlib, Azzaz and Tel Abyad protested against Çavuşoğlu saying that he met with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in October 2021.
In Azzaz, Turkey-backed Syrian opposition and paramilitary groups stormed the security directorate. Protesters later burned Turkish flags in front of the city council and cut off a Turkish convoy on its way to the city, preventing it from entering, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
“Down with Turkey and down with the regime,” protesters wrote on walls.
Protesters in all four cities were carrying the three red stars version of the Syrian flag, used by the Syrian National Army (SNA), previously known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“In a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Belgrade I had a brief chat with the Syrian foreign minister in passing, as I spoke with other ministers,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters at the closing of the 13th Ambassadors Conference in Ankara on Thursday.
“I told him what I say now. The only way out for Syria is a political consensus. Terrorists must be cleared. Whoever they are, whatever their name is,” the minister said. “We need to somehow reconcile the opposition and the regime in Syria. Otherwise there won’t be any lasting peace, this is what we always say.”
Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey would support Syria in “all fights against separatist terrorist organisations”, referring to Syrian Kurdish groups that Turkey considers to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Çavuşoğlu-Mekdad conversation was the first high-level contact between Turkey and Syria since 2011. The only previous communication was between the two countries’ intelligence services, according to the Turkish minister.
Following the protests, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said Turkey was “the country that spent the most effort to find a solution to the crisis in Syria since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, I align myself with the legitimate expectations of the people”.
Turkey has played a leading role in maintaining a ceasefire in Syria, Bilgiç continued, and “fully supported the opposition and Negotiation Committee in the political process”.
“This process is currently not advancing due to the regime dragging its feet,” Bilgiç said.
The spokesman also repeated Turkey’s plans for Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey. Ankara plans to resettle refugees in a so-called safe zone created along the border in Syrian territory, displacing the local Kurdish population.