Withdrawal of Turkish Troops from Syria Discussed in Moscow Talks

No deals were made, but 'constructive talks' were held between Syrian and Turkish high-level officials

The Syrian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the issue of withdrawing Turkish troops from northern Syria was discussed during talks in Moscow between the defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Syria, Turkey, Russia, and Iran.

The talks are part of a Russian effort to broker a normalization deal between Syria and Turkey, which started in December when the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers met for the first time since 2011. No breakthroughs were made on Tuesday, but the talks were described as “constructive.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad reaffirmed earlier in the day that any normalization deal with Ankara hinges on a Turkish withdrawal. “It is impossible to talk about normalizing relations with Turkey amid its occupation of Syria’s northern areas,” he said.

Another topic of discussion was the issue of Syrian refugees returning to their country. The Russian Defense Ministry said the four nations “reaffirmed their adherence to the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity and the need to step up efforts to allow a speedy return of Syrian refugees.”

A normalization deal between Syria and Turkey would be a significant development as Ankara has been a major supporter of militant groups that took up arms against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey’s recent military action in Syria has been focused on the Kurdish-led SDF, which is backed by the US.

Syria is also close to reaching a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia and returning to the Arab League. The US is strongly against such efforts as it prefers to keep the country isolated under crippling sanctions and wants to continue occupying eastern Syria.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.