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Ankara has asked Syrian opposition to leave Turkey amid possible rapprochement with Damascus: report

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The Turkish government has asked the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC), the official organ of the opposition in exile based in İstanbul, to cease its activities in Turkey after Ankara signaled a possible rapprochement with Damascus, Iran’s Tasnim news agency claimed in a report published on Sunday.

In a move that starkly contradicted his earlier stance toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a statement last week that Turkey must take further steps in a newly announced process of reconciliation with the Syrian government.

Erdoğan said Turkey must take “further steps” with Damascus to end the “games” being played in the region.

“You have to accept that you cannot stop political dialogue and diplomacy between countries. There should always be such dialogue,” he added.

Turkey has strongly opposed Syrian President Assad during the 11-year civil war and supported some rebel groups.

According to the Tasnim report, a Turkish official made clear in a meeting with Salim al-Meslet, chairman of the SOC, last week that Ankara is determined to restore relations with Damascus and that Syrian opposition forces should accept reality. Therefore, the Syrian opposition groups must halt all their political and media activities in Turkey and find a new country to resettle in, Tasnim said.

According to the Tasnim report, the SOC has agreed and is considering alternatives such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan as a base.

SOC President Al-Meslet rejected the Iranian media’s claim, calling it “lies and fabrications.”

Al-Meslet said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stressed Turkey’s continued support for the Syrian people and their just cause during his last meeting with him.

Çavuşoğlu revealed earlier this month that he had spoken briefly with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on the sidelines of an international meeting last year, downplaying the significance of the meeting.

About 3,000 people demonstrated Aug. 12 in the town of Azaz, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, vowing to continue their resistance to Assad.

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