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Turkiye, Russia, Syria DMs meet in first talks since 2011

December 29, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar speaks to press after arriving in Moscow, Russia to attend 3 countries’ defense ministers and intelligence chiefs meeting on December 28, 2022. [Arif Akdoğan – Anadolu Agency]

The defence ministers of Turkiye, Russia and Syria met in Moscow yesterday to discuss efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict and to combat “terrorism” in the country and region, in the first such meeting since 2011.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu yesterday met with his Turkish and Syrian counterparts, Hulusi Akar and Ali Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss “ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the problem of refugees, and joint efforts to combat extremist groups in Syria”, the Ministry of Defence said.

The meeting was “constructive”, the ministry stated, emphasising the need to “continue it in the interests of further stabilising the situation” in Syria and the wider region. The Turkish Defence Ministry also labelled the meeting as having a “constructive atmosphere”, with the Syrian Defence Ministry calling it “positive.”

While the content of the meeting or any outcome have not been revealed, it comes at a time when Turkiye continues to warn of its impending military offensive on norther-east Syria in order to combat the Kurdish militias and clear them from the Turkish-Syrian border region.

Those warnings grew significantly after the terror attack in Istanbul in November, which the Turkish government and security services insist was directly linked to and planned by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a designated terrorist group – and its affiliates amongst the Kurdish militias in Syria.

READ: Turkiye in talks with Russia about using Syrian airspace in potential operation

Russia has been mediating between Turkish forces and the Kurdish groups over the past month in an attempt to prevent a new Turkish intervention, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having suggested to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin the formation of a trilateral mechanism in which they can both work with the Syrian regime to accelerate diplomacy and combat terrorism – a term which still needs to be agreed on by all three, as Turkiye views the Kurdish militias as terrorists while Syria and Russia view the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups as terrorists.

Such efforts come amid Ankara’s growing willingness to coordinate with Damascus, especially as the Turkish and Syrian intelligence agencies have increasingly been in contact with one another and Erdogan has expressed his intentions to meet with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and restore ties with his regime after a decade of isolating and opposing it.

Al-Assad has so far rejected those advances, demanding Turkiye fulfil certain conditions ahead of such a meeting.

READ: Before Turkey can normalise with Syria, it must agree with Iran and Russia who the ‘terrorists’ are