Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said on Sunday that Damascus would not normalize relations with Ankara as long as it does not fully withdraw from the parts of Syria it “occupies,” the Syrian North Press Agency reported.
Mekdad, whose remarks came during an interview with the Russian state-owned RT network, said, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is contingent on the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.”
Turkey has been a major backer of the political and armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the 12-year conflict in Syria and has sent its own troops into parts of the country’s north.
Russia, a key ally of Assad, supports a rapprochement between Damascus and Ankara.
In addition to hosting talks between the defense ministers of Turkey and Syria, Moscow also hosted a summit in May between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Mekdad, who held their first official meeting since the start of the Syrian civil war.
The ministers agreed in their May meeting to task their deputies with putting together a “‘roadmap’ to advance ties between Turkey and Syria” in coordination with the defense ministers and security services of the four countries.
Turkish President Erdoğan, who has made up with former rivals across the region, is now seeking a presidential summit with Assad.
Turkey controls around 9 percent of Syria’s territory, according to the Syrian news agency.