Turkey should withdraw from areas it has occupied in Syria for the two countries to achieve a full rapprochement, the Syrian foreign minister said on Saturday.
“We cannot talk about resuming normal ties with Turkey without the occupation being lifted,” said Faisal Mekdad during a press conference following a meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Damascus.
Mekdad is expected to meet the Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in early February as Russian-brokered talks between two countries continue. The first high-level talks between Turkey and Syria since 2011 were held in Moscow last month, at a trilateral meeting between defence ministers and intelligence chiefs.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are expected to hold a meeting in early spring to signify full rapprochement between the two neighbours.
However, Mekdad said “a meeting between al-Assad and the Turkish leadership depends on the removal of the reasons for the dispute”. The Syrian foreign minister did not provide more details, and did not mention Erdoğan by name.
Damascus demanded that Turkey withdraw all its troops controlling territories in the north of Syria and cut off its support to three main opposition factions, a source close to the negotiations told Reuters.
Syria is keen to see progress on these demands through follow-up committees before agreeing to a foreign ministers’ meeting, the same source said.
Turkey says its military presence in Syria is essential to thwart the national security threat posed by Kurdish armed groups there.