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Turkey reaffirms Syria ‘reconciliation’ call after protests

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Turkey reaffirmed its call Tuesday for the Syrian opposition to “reconcile” with President Bashar al-Assad’s government but stressed this did not represent a shift in Ankara’s position on the war, Agence France-Presse reported.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s comments came days after thousands of Syrians in rebel-held northern areas came out to protest Turkey’s push for talks with Assad.

Turkey has strongly opposed Assad throughout the 11-year conflict and backed some rebel groups in the war.

But Çavuşoğlu revealed last week that he had briefly met with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal al-Meqdad, in Belgrade last October — the first such meeting reported since 2011.

“The regime and opposition need to reconcile,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters Tuesday.

“The opposition trusts Turkey. We have never let it down. But we have always said that reconciliation is essential for permanent stability and peace in Syria.”

Çavuşoğlu stressed that his push for talks reflected the “roadmap for peace” unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council in 2015.

Çavuşoğlu’s comments had been seen as an apparent easing of Ankara’s long-standing hostility towards Assad’s government and enraged the Syrian opposition and rebel groups.

Syrians took to the streets after Friday prayers in major northern cities that remain under the control of Ankara’s forces and their Syrian supporters near the Turkish border.

Turkey’s interior minister said on Saturday that security forces had detained two people accused of burning the Turkish flag.

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