The deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia wrapped up two days of talks in Moscow on Tuesday that were aimed at working toward a normalization deal between Ankara and Damascus.
There’s no sign a breakthrough was made, but a follow-up meeting at the foreign minister level is expected to happen soon. A Turkish Foreign Ministry source told Russia’s TASS news agency that the four sides agreed to continue consultations and are planning to hold a foreign ministers meeting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow had proposed dates for the meeting of the top diplomats from the four countries. The talks this week built on a meeting between Syria and Turkey’s defense ministers hosted by Russia in December 2022, marking the first time the two countries held talks at that level since 2011.
Damascus has made clear that any normalization deal with Ankara hinges on a Turkish withdrawal from the territory it occupies in northern Syria. A rapprochement between Syria and Turkey would be a major breakthrough as Ankara supported the failed regime change effort against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and still backs anti-government fighters on the ground.
The Syria-Turkey talks come as other regional countries are working toward normalizing with the Assad government, including Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is expected to invite Assad to attend an Arab League Summit it’s hosting in May. Syria was kicked out of the Arab League in 2011.
The US opposes regional countries normalizing with Assad as it prefers to keep Syria isolated and under crippling economic sanctions. The US also occupies a significant portion of eastern Syria, where most of the country’s oil and wheat resources are located.