Erdogan to Restore Relations with Syria to ‘How They Were in the Past’

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar Assad receiving Russia's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in the capital Damascus (SANA/AFP)
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar Assad receiving Russia's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in the capital Damascus (SANA/AFP)
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Erdogan to Restore Relations with Syria to ‘How They Were in the Past’

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar Assad receiving Russia's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in the capital Damascus (SANA/AFP)
A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar Assad receiving Russia's Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev in the capital Damascus (SANA/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday he will extend an invitation to Syrian President Bashar Assad “any time,” renewing his readiness to restore relations with Damascus to the same level as in the past.

“We will extend our invitation (to Assad); with this invitation, we want to restore Türkiye-Syria relations to how they were in the past. Our invitation may be extended at any time,” Erdogan said.

“We have now arrived at a point where if Bashar Assad takes a step towards improving relations with Türkiye, we will also show that approach towards him,” Erdogan said. “Yesterday, we were not enemies with Syria. We met with Assad as a family.”

The President also noted his preference for “a face-to-face meeting with Assad” in Ankara, in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin's requests. He told journalists on a flight from Berlin, where he watched Türkiye play the Netherlands in the quarter-final of the European Championship's soccer tournament, “Our invitation may be extended at any time.”

Erdogan added that “Putin and the Iraqi prime minister have an approach for talks to be in Türkiye. We are talking about mediation everywhere, why not with our neighbor?”

Last month, the Turkish President did not rule out a possible meeting with Assad to revive relations.

His comments on Sunday came in response to Assad's statements during his meeting with the Russian President’s special envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev. Assad affirmed that Syria is open to all initiatives regarding Syrian-Turkish relations as long as they are based on respect for the sovereignty of the Syrian state over all its territory and the fight against all forms of terrorism and its organizations.

Russia-brokered normalization talks between Ankara and Damascus, which started in 2021 at different levels, have been stalled since June 2023 due to the Syrian government's insistence that Türkiye agrees to pull out thousands of troops from the opposition-held northwest of Syria.

The recent Turkish rapprochement towards Assad is due to several factors, most notably Ankara’s fears of local elections in the Kurdish Autonomous Administration areas of northeastern Syria next August. Türkiye considers the elections as a step towards establishing a Kurdish state on its borders. It seeks Moscow and Damascus’ support to prevent holding the elections.

According to observers, Ankara also seeks to normalize relations with Damascus to repatriate millions of Syrian refugees amid a steep economic downturn. Ankara wants to forge an agreement with the government of Damascus to reopen cross-border trade routes to Syria and other countries of the region.

At the same time, observers believe that the Assad government cannot meet the two requirements. Damascus is unable to secure the border or to accommodate more than 3 million refugees returning from Türkiye due to the deteriorating economic situation and the collapse of infrastructure. Also, the Syrian government is still incapable to secure trade routes, even if Türkiye is willing to withdraw its forces from the north of the country.

Protests in North Syria

Commenting on the recent spate of attacks on Syrian refugees in Kayseri, central Türkiye, and attacks on Turkish garrisons and interests in the Ankara-controlled area of Syria, Erdogan has vowed to reveal which hands triggered the clashes in north Syria.

Turkish security sources said on Sunday they detained a person named Ali Mohammed Hajj-Hassan Hamadah, accused of allegedly desecrating the Turkish flag during a protest in the northern Syrian city of Azaz. Sources said the man later expressed regret for his actions and apologized to the Turkish people.

On Saturday, the Turkish intelligence detained several people accused of allegedly desecrating the Turkish flag and taking part in last week’s anti-Turkish protests in the north of Syria.

The country’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) said it detained a 17-year-old teenager, who allegedly tore down the Turkish flag in the northwestern al-Bab town.

The teen was recorded in front of a Turkish flag expressing his regret for his actions and kissing the flag.



Britain Will Resume Funding to UN Palestinian Refugee Agency UNRWA

Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Britain Will Resume Funding to UN Palestinian Refugee Agency UNRWA

Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)

Britain's new Labor government said on Friday it would resume funding to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.
Britain was one of several countries to halt their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency's staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war, said Reuters.
Britain's foreign minister, David Lammy, told parliament he was reassured that the agency had taken steps to "ensure it meets the highest standards of neutrality".
"I can confirm to the house that we are overturning the suspension of UNRWA funding, Britain will provide 21 million (pounds) in funds" to the agency, he said.