The defense ministers of Syria, Turkey, and Russia held talks in Moscow on Wednesday in a sign of thawing relations between Ankara and Damascus.
The conversation between Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Syrian counterpart, Ali Mahmoud Abbas, is believed to be the first meeting of the two nation’s defense ministers since 2011.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the talks, which included Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, focused on “solutions to the Syria crisis, the refugee issue, and joint efforts to battle extremist groups on Syrian territory.”
Turkey severed diplomatic relations with Damascus back in 2012 and backed the failed regime change effort against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by supporting anti-government fighters.
But now that it’s clear that Assad isn’t going anywhere and Turkey has been focusing on Kurdish militants in northeast Syria, Ankara has been signaling it wants a rapprochement with Damascus. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed earlier this year that he briefly met with his Syrian counterpart in October 2021, the first known high-level meeting between the two governments since 2011.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that during Wednesday’s meeting, the ministers “noted the constructive nature of the dialogue held in this format and the need to continue it in the interests of further stabilizing the situation.” The Turkish Defense Ministry described the talks as having a “constructive atmosphere.”
In November, Turkey launched major airstrikes against the US-backed Kurdish-led SDF in northeast Syria over allegations the group was involved in a bombing in Istanbul, which the SDF denies. Turkey has been asking the US and Russia to convince the SDF to withdraw from towns near the Turkish border.
Unhappy with the US efforts to curtail Turkey’s offensive, the SDF has also requested Russia to broker talks with the Syrian government. One possible solution would be for Syrian government troops to deploy to the border areas to act as a buffer between the Kurdish forces and Turkey, but that is unlikely to happen as long as the US occupies eastern Syria.