Turkish and Russian officials suggested that a meeting between the deputy foreign ministers of Türkiye, Russia, Iran and Syria, aimed at normalizing relations between Ankara and Damascus, could be held in Moscow in April.
“We are currently preparing, and I expect that these consultations will take place in Moscow at the beginning of April to prepare for the foreign ministers meeting,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov according to the Russian news agency Sputnik.
Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin confirmed that the meeting will take place and additional details will be revealed gradually.
Negotiations at the meeting will tackle coordination in the war on terrorism, advancing the political process in Syria along the Astana path, and ensuring the safe and dignified return of Syrian refugees to their country, added Kalin.
“The purpose of these meetings is to protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to establish a system that takes into account our security concerns,” he stressed, while accusing Damascus of seeking to sabotage the process.
The meeting had been previously set for March 15 and 16. It was postponed for “technical reasons” at Russia's request, possibly to hold consultations with Syria.
The postponement coincided with a visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Moscow where he announced that he would only meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when Ankara is ready to completely withdraw its forces from northern Syria. The withdrawal will form the foundation for future meetings or negotiations.
Ankara took a hard stance from Assad’s condition, stressing it will continue military operations outside its borders to eliminate “terrorist threats” - mostly posed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) - against its borders and security of its people. The YPG forms the military backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Erdogan on Thursday vowed that his country will continue its military operations within and beyond its borders “until the last terrorist threat against our nation is eliminated.”
During a telephone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Türkiye's presence in Syria is aimed at combating terrorism and protecting its borders and Syria’s territorial integrity.
It is not an occupation, he stressed, hoping Damascus would understand Ankara’s stance from the YPG.
Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin held telephone talks on Saturday, underscoring the importance of maintaining efforts to normalize ties between Ankara and Damascus.