Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs held multiple meetings in Damascus in recent weeks, Reuters reported, citing four different local sources.
The talks took place with Russia’s urge for an agreement between Ankara and Damascus to secure its position in Syria while focusing on a protracted conflict in Ukraine.
Reuters’ local source in Damascus said that the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT), Hakan Fidan had a meeting with Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk in Damascus this week. Local sources in Turkey also confirm that Russia has asked Turkey to normalise relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “accelerate a political solution” in Syria.
After a decade of open hostility, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first stated his desire to reconcile with the Assad regime in August.
During the meetings, Fidan and Mamlouk discussed how the two countries’ foreign ministers could eventually come together, according to a senior Turkish official and a Turkish security source.
The source said the latest meetings, including Fidan’s two-day visit to Damascus at the end of August, aimed to lay the groundwork for higher-level sessions.
Although Fidan and Mamlouk have been talking intermittently for the past two years, the pace and timing of recent meetings indicate a new urgency. According to Reuters, Turkish-Syrian relations have made progress and a “climate for understanding” has been created.
The improvement comes after Fidan’s meetings with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), the chair of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) units, and the head of the Sunni Sovereignty Alliance, Khamis al-Khanjar in Baghdad on 11 September.
Possible Ankara-Damascus normalisation could reshape the Syrian war. However, there are many challenges to a possible agreement between the two countries. Assad considers NATO member Turkey’s soldiers in Syria as invaders, while the Turkish government wants to include Syrian rebels in any talks with Damascus, Reuters said citing a Turkish source.
Russia would need Turkey and Syria to reach an agreement in order to direct its troops towards Ukraine without losing power in the latter. Moscow has been gradually withdrawing military resources from Syria since early summer, but does not wish to see Iranian influence expanding in the region.