The Guardian reports: Turkey has signalled a normalisation of relations with Syria, in an apparent policy shift after five years of a civil war that has increasingly threatened Turkish borders and worn down an anti-government rebellion heavily backed by Ankara.
Such a move, which has been rumoured for weeks in media outlets in Lebanon close to the Bashar al-Assad regime, would represent a tectonic shift in the region’s dynamics, realigning protagonists in the war and potentially spelling an end to the rebellion against Assad’s rule.
It would also indicate that Turkey sees the threat of Kurdish expansionism in northern Syria as a greater priority than the removal of Assad, who in 2011 spurned demands by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister and now president, that he recognise rather than crush popular opposition to his rule.
On Wednesday the prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, said in a television address that restoring relations with Syria was needed both in the context of a counter-terrorism campaign and an overall reset of relations with regional powers.
“I am sure that we will return [our] ties with Syria to normal,” he said. “We need it. We normalised our relations with Israel and Russia. I’m sure we will go back to normal relations with Syria as well. We need this [because] in order for counterterrorism efforts to succeed there has to be stability in Syria and Iraq and [they] need to adopt a system of government that represents all our brothers and sisters [in Syria and Iraq]. This is inevitable.”
Turkish officials played down suggestions that Yıldırım’s remarks represented a policy reversal, insisting there was no intention of seeking reconciliation with Assad’s government, only with whichever government replaces him.
“There is a distinction between Syria and Bashar al-Assad,” a senior Turkish official said. “We hope, at some point, relations between Turkey and Syria will get back to normal. That’s what it is. That’s all it is.” [Continue reading…]