Russia, Türkiye, Syria and Iran kicked off in Moscow on Monday negotiations aimed at overcoming obstacles that are hindering the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus.
The deputy foreign ministers of the four countries held talks ahead of a potential meeting for their foreign ministers, said a source from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The source provided little details about the discussions that took place on Monday.
They started off with bilateral meetings between the officials. The Syrian government delegation, headed by deputy FM Ayman Sousan, held talks with the Russian delegation, headed by Presidential Special Envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev and deputy FM Mikhail Bogdanov.
The Syrian delegation then met separately with the Iranian delegation, headed by Ali Asghar Khaji, the Iranian foreign minister's senior advisor for special political affairs.
The Turkish delegation held separate talks with the Russian and Iranian delegations.
The meetings were all held behind closed doors and revealed disagreements between Moscow and Damascus.
Russian media, quoting Syria’s state news agency SANA, reported that Moscow and Damascus were in agreement on “the need to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and ending Türkiye's illegal deployment there.”
However, a Russian diplomatic source denied to Asharq Al-Awsat the SANA report.
“Claims that the two sides were in agreement over the illegal Turkish deployment in Syria are untrue,” it added.
Rather, the source stressed that the military presence there “is important because it is helping maintain calm, end the fighting between Syrians and focus the fight on terrorism.”
It said the future of the deployment of Turkish forces should be tackled in talks between Türkiye and Syria. Both parties must take into account the circumstances that led the situation to where it is now and address ways to tackle it.
He stressed that these are positions that Russia has always maintained.
The Moscow consultations are set to continue on Tuesday.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had visited the Russian capital in March, laying out conditions for normalization relations with Ankara.
His demands included the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syria and that it stop supporting terrorists, a reference to opposition-held areas in the Idlib region and its surroundings.