Türkiye and the Bashar Assad regime may cooperate within the scope of removing the terrorist threats toward Ankara as well as maintaining Syria’s territorial integrity, Omer Celik, the spokesperson for Türkiye’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) said, reports Daily Sabah.
Speaking to reporters at the party headquarters in Ankara, Celik said that talks with the regime are ongoing on the level of intelligence institutions and could lead to political-level meetings once the intelligence talks are ripe.
“Such kind of a cooperation would bear highly efficient fruits,” he said.
Erdogan previously said he could meet with Assad when the right time comes, reinforcing tentative recent steps to restore ties between the two sides in its southern neighbor’s war.
Any normalization between Ankara and Damascus would reshape the decadelong Syrian war. Turkish backing has been vital to sustaining Syrian moderate opposition in their last major territorial foothold in the northwest after Assad defeated the opposition across the rest of the country, aided by Russia and Iran.
Celik’s remarks came as Türkiye said it may launch a ground operation into Syria against the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian wing, which is supported by countries such as the U.S. and Russia. However, the Assad regime itself is not content with the terrorist group controlling almost one-third of the war-torn country, presenting a window for cooperation between Ankara and Damascus.
The PKK is a designated terrorist organization in the U.S., Türkiye and the European Union. Washington’s support for its Syrian affiliate, the YPG, has been a major strain on bilateral relations with Ankara.
The U.S. primarily partnered with the YPG in northeastern Syria to fight against the Daesh terrorist group. On the other hand, Türkiye strongly opposed the YPG terrorist group’s presence in northern Syria. Ankara has long objected to the U.S.’ support for the YPG, a group that poses a threat to Türkiye and terrorizes local people, destroying their homes and forcing them to flee.
Under the pretext of fighting Daesh, the U.S. has provided military training and given truckloads of military support to YPG terrorists, despite its NATO ally’s security concerns.
Recently, Türkiye launched Operation Claw-Sword, a cross-border aerial campaign against the PKK terrorist group and its Syrian wing, the YPG, which have illegal hideouts across the Iraqi and Syrian borders where they plan attacks on Turkish soil.
The country’s air operation followed a PKK/YPG terrorist attack on Nov. 13 on Istanbul’s crowded Istiklal Street that killed six people and left 81 injured.
After the air operation was launched, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also signaled a ground operation to northern Iraq and northern Syria to eliminate the terrorist threat, adding, “This is not limited to just an air operation.”
The president specified northern Syria’s PKK/YPG-controlled Tal Rifaat, Manbij and Ain al-Arab (also known as Kobani) regions as possible targets to clear of terrorists.
Tal Rifaat lies 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of the border with Türkiye. The PKK/YPG controls the city and surrounding villages, and Russian troops are present in the area. The Syrian National Army (SNA) controls areas surrounding Tal Rifaat from the north, while Russian-backed Syrian troops control zones mostly to the south.
Russian troops are deployed in some PKK/YPG-controlled border areas of northern Syria following a 2019 agreement that sought to avert a previous Turkish operation threat.
Meanwhile, political consultations between Türkiye and Russia will be held in Istanbul on Thursday and Friday to discuss regional issues as well as Ankara’s potential operation.
Russia joined Syria’s 10-year conflict in September 2015, when the regime’s military appeared close to collapse, and has since helped in tipping the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. Hundreds of Russian troops are deployed across Syria and they also have a military air base along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
Delegations headed by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal and his Russian counterpart Sergey Vershinin will address the Black Sea grain export deal, as well as regional issues such as Syria, Libya and Palestine, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Türkiye and Russia are also cooperating on the Syrian issue within the scope of the Astana process. The Astana Process was launched in 2017 in a bid to restore peace and stability in the Arab country, which has been ravaged by war since 2011 when the Bashar Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.