Syria’s condition for any restoration of relations with Turkey is for the Turkish army to leave Syrian territory, Syrian Defence Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas told Russia Today on Tuesday.
Abbas confirmed that there have been several negotiations between the two neighbouring countries, but said they have not progressed due to Turkey’s “refusal to withdraw”.
According to the minister, Turkish Defence Minister Yaşar Güler’s remarks last week further complicated the matter.
Güler had told pro-government A Haber on Saturday that Turkey “sincerely wants peace, but we have our own sensitivities”.
“Without ensuring security for our borders and our nation, us leaving those lands is unthinkable,” Güler said, in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s 9 August comments.
“I believe the Syrian head of state will also act in better sense. The most important phase to bring peace to Syria is the writing of the constitution and that the people accept it,” Güler said.
Assad had rejected the possibility of a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying his government aimed for Turkey’s withdrawal from Syrian territory, while Erdoğan’s was “to legitimise the presence of Turkey’s occupation in Syria”, Reuters reported.
Syria has “always been a peaceful country”, Abbas said. “Unfortunately, Turkey has been involved in the war and supported terrorism.”
Turkey supported Islamist groups opposed to Assad from the beginning of the conflict in 2011, and starting with the 2016 Operation Euphrates Shield, has occupied a growing part of Syria in an effort to drive out Kurdish forces that controlled the Kurdish-majority north and east regions of the country. Attacks against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have slowed down the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.