Terrorists in Syria are the main threat to the country rather than the presence of Turkish forces, a Turkish official has insisted after a recent demand by the Syrian regime for Turkiye to withdraw its military from the north.
Following a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the capital, Ankara, on Monday, its spokesperson, Omer Celik, reportedly shed some light on the ongoing normalisation and reconciliation process between the Turkish and Syrian governments, revealing that some steps in the process are almost complete.
"When these are finalised, the [Turkish and Syrian] foreign ministers will meet. What I want to say to our interlocutors in Syria is this, 'The main threat to them is terrorist organisations. The Republic of Turkiye is not a threat to them. We defend Syria's territorial integrity in the strongest possible way'," Celik stressed.
He insisted that Ankara does not want small "terror statelets" to be formed within Syria while the work for a political solution to the 12-year-long civil war is ongoing through lens of the constitutional process and negotiations. The spokesperson reiterated that diplomacy must be prioritised and upheld, and that Turkiye is not an occupying force in Syria.
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The proper steps that need to be taken, according to Celik and the Turkish government, are to "advance these political negotiations, as well as implement joint mechanisms with Syria to clear Syrian territory of terrorist groups."
In recent months, Turkiye and its President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan have approached Syria and particularly its ally, Russia, with the emphasis of combatting terrorism, including through the formation of a trilateral mechanism.
A main obstacle is the very classification of who is a "terrorist" – a term which still needs to be agreed on by all three – as Ankara views the Kurdish militias as terrorists, while Damascus and Moscow, instead, view the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups as terrorists.
The AKP spokesperson's comments come as a response to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's insistence last week that talks with Turkiye must be based on the aim of ending the Turkish military presence in northern Syria and ceasing any support for the rebel groups.
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