Ankara and Damascus hold talks involving defense chiefs, reportedly for the first time in over a decade
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met his Turkish and Syrian counterparts in Moscow on Wednesday. Turkey’s defense minister held talks with Syria’s defense chief, apparently for the first time since 2011.
Hulusi Akar and Ali Mahmud Abbas, representing Ankara and Damascus respectively, discussed “the means to resolve the Syrian crisis” and “joint efforts to combat extremist groups in Syria”, as well as possible solutions to the refugee problem, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement after the meeting.
Both parties said the format was “constructive” and stressed that they wanted to continue talks in the interest of stabilizing Syria and the region as a whole, Moscow said.
The agenda was confirmed in a statement issued by the Ministry of Defense in Ankara. Turkish media also noted that this was the first meeting at this level between neighboring countries since the start of the Syrian conflict 11 years ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan severed diplomatic relations with Syria in March 2012. It is not until October 2021 that the foreign ministers of the two countries will meet at the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Serbia, at which time it was revealed that their intelligence agencies had also resumed communications.
The meeting comes just days after Akar revealed he was negotiating with Moscow over the use of Syrian airspace for Türkiye’s ‘Operation Claw-Sword’, a campaign of airstrikes and artillery against Kurdish militias in northern Syria.
Ankara views US-backed Kurdish militants as terrorists allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it blamed for the mid-November suicide bombing in Istanbul that killed six and others injured 81 others.
A much bigger bone of contention between neighboring countries is Turkey’s support for Syrian rebels who have sought to overthrow the government in Damascus. The remnants of the rebellion, largely defeated by the Syrian army with Russian support, retreated to Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
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