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Syria regime says no dialogue with Turkey before Ankara announces plans to withdraw its troops

Syria’s foreign minister said Tuesday that any dialogue between Syria and Turkey should only take place after Ankara announces that it will withdraw its troops from all Syrian territories it controls.

Faisal Mekdad made the comments during a joint news conference with Iran’s acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, after Turkey threatened in recent days to act against Kurdish-led authorities in Syria’s northeast as they prepare to hold municipal elections next week.

Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and controls some territories in the north. Ankara was a main backer of Syrian opposition fighters who have been trying to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power since the conflict began in March 2011.

Attempts at reconciliation between Syria and Turkey have failed to achieve progress since early 2023 despite meetings in Moscow between the countries' foreign ministers and defense ministers.

“The main condition to any Syrian-Turkish dialogue is for Ankara to announce its readiness to withdraw from our lands that it occupies,” Mekdad said. “We do not negotiate with those who occupy our land.”

Bagheri Kani said Tehran has always supported territorial integrity of all regional countries, particularly Syria. “We have supported and will continue to support Syria in its battle against terrorism,” he said, in reference to Syrian insurgent groups that Damascus and Tehran consider terrorist organizations.

Iran and Russia, main backers of Assad who took part in Syria’s conflict that has killed half a million people, have tried to mediate between Turkey and Syria in the past. Over the years, Syrian government forces have taken control of most parts of Syria with their help.

On Turkey’s support to Syrian insurgent groups in the north, Mekdad said: “It is not permissible for the Turkish occupation of Syrian lands to continue to support terrorist organizations in northern Syria.”

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara won’t hesitate to act against Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria that it accuses of links to outlawed Kurdish militants, if they proceed with plans to hold local elections in the region on June 11.

Pro-government Syrian media outlets said Bagheri Kani met earlier Tuesday at the Iranian embassy in Damascus with leaders of Syria-based Palestinian factions. They gave no further details.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah announced that its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, met with Bagheri Kani and discussed the volatile situation in Gaza and along the Lebanon-Israel border. Bagheri Kani was in Lebanon before heading to Syria.

Bagheri Kani told reporters that he was in Syria to discuss “an immediate end to the Zionists’ crimes in (the southern city of) Rafah and delivering urgent, immediate and unconditional aid to the oppressed residents of Gaza.”

AP
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