The ongoing 20th round of Astana Peace Talks on Syria witnessed crucial discussions on Tuesday, with the Syrian delegation yet again firmly asserting that the normalisation of relations between Syria and Turkey is contingent upon the complete withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian territories.
Delegates representing Syria, Russia, Turkey, and Iran convened in the Kazakh capital for the four-way meeting aimed at addressing the restoration of ties between the two neighbouring countries.
Ayman Sousan, Assistant Foreign and Expatriates Minister and head of the Syrian delegation, conveyed the stance that the Syrian government had previously repeatedly put forward, setting the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian land as a condition for reconciliation with Turkey, as reported by Syria’a state-run SANA News Agency.
During the years of war, Turkey played a prominent role in supporting Islamist rebel factions against the Syrian government and conducted multiple military operations into Syria resulting in territorial gains.
However, Turkey, which controls approximately nine per cent of Syrian territory, has shown no haste to withdraw troops from Syrian territory. Ankara implicitly disregarded Damascus’ demands for withdrawal and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected the idea of withdrawing Turkish forces from northern Syria in an interview with CNN in May.
Erdoğan has been expressing readiness to reconcile with Assad in order to collaborate on fighting Kurdish groups in northeast Syria and argues that Turkish forces remain in Syria to combat terrorism, specifically referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
During Astana Talks on Tuesday, Sousan further stressed that “ensuring border security is a common responsibility of neighbouring countries.”
Meanwhile, Turkish forces intensified military offensives into Kurdish-led areas in northeastern Syria over the last week. Salih Muslim, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) leader, argued in an interview on Saturday that Turkey’s intensified airstrikes serve as a demonstration of power before the Astana summit. Despite the loss of a Russian soldier and several Syrian troops in the recent Turkish airstrikes, Muslim highlighted that Russia, Iran and Syria remain silent.