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Erdogan: Turkey Maintains Low-Level Contact with Syria

Erdogan: Turkey Maintains Low-Level Contact with Syria

Monday, 4 February, 2019 - 10:30
A fighter from a Turkish-supported Syrian faction in Tal al-Hajar, near Aleppo. (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey has maintained low-level contact with the Syrian regime, although Ankara is one of the most vocal critics of this regime.

“Foreign policy with Syria continues at a lower level,” he told broadcaster TRT in an interview.

Erdogan's comments Sunday are the first time he has confirmed direct low-level talks with Damascus.

On the other hand, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Sunday that Syria’s Constitutional Committee will be set up in the coming days.

"We are seeking to give impetus to the Geneva process, we are promoting the Astana and Sochi processes,” he explained.

“In the coming days, the Constitutional Committee will be set up comprising representatives of the civil society, supporters of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad and the opposition,” Cavusoglu added.

He also talked about the northern province of Idlib, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria, where Ankara and Moscow agreed in September that Turkey should establish a demilitarized zone cleared of extremist militants.

Talks nowadays, he stressed, are focused on how to manage the US withdrawal process and achieve permanent stability in Syria through coordination with neighboring countries and those concerned, including Russia and Iran.

Earlier, the Turkish top diplomat said that on February 14, Sochi would host the Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on the Syrian settlement.

In the upcoming meeting, the Russian, Turkish and Iranian Presidents are due to discuss the situation in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone and the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, he said.

In recent days, a senior Russian delegation discussed in both Ankara and Tehran means of forming the Syrian Constitutional Commission as soon as possible.

A Turkish delegation from the foreign and defense ministries also concluded on Sunday talks in Moscow on the Syrian issue.

In this context, Cavusoglu stressed the importance of supporting Syrian refugees who have begun to return to their homeland, saying that Turkey was talking to all actors, including the European Union, to provide the necessary support.

Notably, Turkey hosts about 3.6 million Syrian refugees, while some 300,000 left to the liberalized areas in northern Syria through the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations, which were carried out by the Turkish and Syrian Free armies.

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