NNA – Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Sputnik that he was ready to meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, only after the withdrawal of Turkiye's troops from the territory of Syria.
Sputnik was the first international news agency to interview the Syrian president right after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Wednesday.
"As regards a meeting with Erdogan, it is linked to the reaching of a stage when Turkiye is clearly and unambiguously ready for the full withdrawal of the Turkish military from the territory of Syria, for the cessation of supporting terrorism and restoration of the situation to the state it was before the start of the war in Syria," Assad said.
"This is the only option in which my meeting with Erdogan can take place. …Besides that, what is the purpose of this meeting, and what is the point of organizing it if it will not result in the conclusion of the war in Syria?"
The president said that Ankara played a negative role in the war in Syria by supporting organizations Damascus deems to be terrorists, and by deploying troops on Syrian territory.
"Turkiye for us is an occupying state," Assad said.
The Syrian president noted Russia's important role as a mediator in maintaining good relations with both the Syrian and Turkish sides.
"We trust the Russian side because it has played a mediator role to make these contacts easier while doing so within the principles on which Russian policy is based. Among these principles are respect for international law, recognition of the sovereignty of states, rejection of terrorism, respect for the territorial integrity of Syria and the sovereignty of the Syrian state on its territory, and the need to withdraw illegitimate foreign armed forces from Syria," Assad said.
"This is what Russia, together with Syria, is working on, making attempts along with other attempts that you are familiar with; there are negotiations in Geneva, in Astana, and other cities. All these negotiations have one aim – to restore stability in Syria," the president added.
Relations between Syria and Turkiye have remained at an all-time low since 2011, when the Turkish government threw its backing to the covert war being pursued against Damascus. In the four years that followed, Turkiye shifted gears its gears slightly after having under domestic issues but nonetheless maintained a reduced number of anti-Assad forces in northern Syria targeting both Daesh* militants and YPG Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.
Since devastating earthquakes displaced millions and killed tens of thousands in northern Syria and southern Turkiye in early February, hopes have remained high that relations could be rectified. —-Sputnik