By Faramarz Kuhpayeh

A big step forward

May 10, 2023 - 22:43
Iran and Russia bring Ankara and Damascus together

TEHRAN – After years of tensions, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Syria sat at the same table to discuss ways to de-escalate tensions with help from Iran and Russia.

On Wednesday, the Russian capital Moscow hosted an important quadrilateral meeting between Iran, Syria, Russia, and Turkey at the level of foreign ministers. The meeting is a giant step forward in terms of putting an end to differences between Turkey and Syria, which have been at loggerheads over the last decade. 

The meeting was made possible by a series of technical discussions that took place between the four states in Moscow in early April. 

While some international issues have also been on the agenda, the Moscow meeting is primarily focused on the normalization of relations between Ankara and Damascus. The diametrically opposed positions of Syria and Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011 seriously have damaged their relations. With the Syrian government regaining control of much of its lost territory, Turkey moved to patch up relations with Syria with mediation and facilitation by Iran and Russia.

In the Wednesday meeting, this featured high on the agenda. The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the foreign ministers of the four countries held “a substantive and frank discussion on issues related to resuming the interstate relations” between Syria and Turkey in various aspects.

The Moscow meeting is another indication that Syria moving past crisis and war, a trend that prompted Turkey and many Arab states to restore ties with Damascus. Earlier this week, Syria was readmitted to the Arab League and Saudi Arabia reopened its diplomatic missions in Damascus. Currently, there are speculations that Syrian President Bashar Assad could take part in the upcoming summit of the Arab League in Saudi Arabia, which has already officially extended an invitation to Assad to participate in the summit. 

Turkey appears to be willing to keep up with this reconciliatory trend. In their meeting, the foreign ministers agreed to task the deputy foreign ministers to prepare a road map to advance the relations between Turkey and Syria in coordination with the work of the ministries of defense and special services of the four countries, according to the Russian statement. 

The statement added that the ministers noted a positive and constructive atmosphere of their exchange during the meeting and agreed to further maintain high-level contacts and technical talks in this quadripartite format in the upcoming period.

The Moscow meeting also provided a convivial atmosphere for the foreign ministers to hold bilateral meetings. The Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian held separate meetings with his Syria, Russian, and Turkish counterparts. 

In his meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, Amir Abdollahian congratulated him on Syria’s readmission to the Arab League and expressed Iran’s support for the Turkish-Syrian normalization. 

Amir Abdollahian described the Moscow meeting as a step forward in his meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The Turkish foreign minister, for his part, pointed to Iran’s important role in facilitating the quadrilateral meeting. 

As things stand, Turkey and Syria are making strides in restoring their ties. The full resumption of ties, however, is hindered by the fact that Turkish troops are illegally present in Syrian territory, thus contravening the Arab country’s territorial integrity. This point was raised in Moscow. 

In his speech at the joint meeting, Amir Abdollahian underlined that any political resolution to the Syrian issues must ensure Syria’s sovereignty over its entire territory, according to IRNA. 

Amir Abdollahian suggested that deployment of Syrian troops at the border regions can alleviate security concerns of Turkey and other neighboring countries, prevent terrorist and separatist activities, and set the stage for the withdrawal of Turkish military forces from the common border areas.

“We believe that a strong and independent Syria can overcome terrorism, separatism, occupation of American forces, and theft of the country's national resources,” he noted.

Iran’s top diplomat also stressed the need for joint efforts by regional countries and the rest of the international community to reconstruct Syria and prepare the ground for Syrian refugees to return to their homeland.

“Of course, any political precondition and double standards on this issue not only will not help solve this humanitarian issue but will also add to its complexity,” he pointed out.

The Iranian foreign minister pointed out that the beginning of talks between Syria and Turkey will benefit the people of the two countries and the security of the region.

“We deeply believe that these two countries can put the past behind them and resolve the bilateral issues through dialogue and deepening cooperation based on good neighborliness,” Amir Abdollahian said.

He also noted that today’s meeting in Moscow would have a strong message of peace and sustainable security in the region and strengthening of good neighborliness between Turkey and Syria.

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