In yet another sign of his government’s desire to reconcile with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said a meeting with Assad is possible since “there’s no resentment in politics,” Turkish media reported on Wednesday.
“[A meeting with Assad] may take place. There’s no resentment in politics. Sooner or later, we can take steps,” Erdoğan told reporters at parliament following his Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s group meeting on Wednesday.
The president was responding to questions about whether he would meet in person with Assad as he did with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Qatar over the weekend.
Erdoğan didn’t provide any details about when he would have his second meeting with El-Sisi.
Following Erdoğan’s remarks, Alexander Lavrentiev, the Russian special representative to Syria, said in a press statement that Moscow received signals from both Ankara and Damascus about being ready to “take certain steps” towards each other.
“We hope that we will gradually witness some Syrian-Turkish rapprochement. It is needed because these are two neighboring states that should be on friendly terms,” the Russian diplomat noted, adding that the two countries’ steps towards each other would create the chance to prevent such tragic events as the death of civilians.
Erdoğan’s comments on the issue came after he last week talked about his plan to revisit Turkey’s strained relations with the Syrian government following the presidential and parliamentary elections set for June of next year.
“At the moment we, as Turkey, can reconsider relations with countries with which we have difficulties. … Especially after the June election, we can start with a clean slate,” the president said.
Erdoğan also stated in early October that he couldn’t say it was “impossible” for him to meet with Assad, adding that it might happen “when the time is right.”
Turkey has strongly opposed Assad throughout the 11-year civil war and backed some rebel groups, while Erdoğan in earlier remarks accused the Syrian regime of carrying out “state terrorism” and labeled Assad as a “terrorist.”
Syria’s civil war, which began with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011, has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.