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Erdogan and Assad may reunite after 13 years to end PKK together

Erdogan and Assad may reunite after 13 years to end PKK together Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with Syria's President Bashar Assad in Aleppo city Feb. 6, 2011. (Reuters Photo)
By Yilmaz Bilgen
Jul 5, 2024 8:45 AM

Speculation is mounting about a potential meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, their first in 13 years.

The meeting is expected to take place in one of several locations, including Russia, Iraq, or a Gulf country. According to sources, the groundwork for this critical summit began on June 11.

On the other hand, the Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet’s pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi noted that no meeting between Assad and Erdogan is expected anytime soon.

Ankara prefers leadership-level talks

Following Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s talks in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched his special envoy, Alexander Lavrentyev, to Damascus to persuade Assad to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting. Although Assad expressed readiness for normalization, he could not travel to Russia.

The meeting is anticipated to occur by September, but the exact venue remains undetermined, with Russia, Gulf countries, and Iraq as top contenders.

Damascus is reportedly preparing with Iraq in mind, while Ankara prefers a quiet process focused on leadership rather than delegation-level talks, without third-party nations’ involvement. The location will be finalized following President Putin’s visit to Türkiye.

“Let’s end the PKK together”

In preparation for the summit, the two countries plan to establish joint commissions to address military, political, economic, terrorism, and refugee issues. Both sides will revise their previous demands, focusing on Syria’s sovereignty, the return of refugees, and the PKK/YPG issue.

Sources indicate that Damascus has requested the withdrawal of Turkish forces from certain areas as a goodwill gesture. At the same time, Türkiye has proposed joint action against all threats, including PKK/YPG and ISIS.

Iran uncomfortable with “normalization”

Turkish strategist Bekir Atacan highlighted Iran’s discomfort with the recent developments.

Iran has increased its pressure on Assad, with actions that almost resemble a coup by the Revolutionary Guards and Iranian intelligence at the Syrian Presidential Palace. Assad’s Sunni advisor Luna al-Shibl mysteriously disappeared, and figures like Bouthaina Shaaban and Ali Mamlouk were removed from the Baath Party’s central committee.

Despite appearing supportive, Iran is doing everything behind the scenes to block this summit. For Iran and its local supporters, the return of refugees poses a greater threat than the PKK, as the areas vacated by Sunni Syrians have been turned into Shia strongholds. Iran does not want this situation to change

Bekir Atacan
Last Updated:  Jul 11, 2024 7:47 PM