Protesters held a vigil in Idlib on Tuesday in protest of the Turkish rapprochement with the Syrian government.
Protests have been taking place across different Syrian cities in Aleppo and Idlib governorates. According to media reports, several hundreds of Syrians were protesting last week in al-Bab against any reconciliation efforts with the Syrian government.
Also on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu hosted a meeting with the Syrian opposition seemingly to calm the public reaction galvanized against such a potential scenario.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reiterated similar reassurances. He was quoted by Turkish media as saying, “There is no question of us doing anything against our Syrian brothers and sisters living in Turkey and Syria. We have never and never will consider behavior that would put them in trouble."
Al-Bab is controlled by rebel factions backed by Ankara. Similar protests were also held in other rebel-held towns. In the northwestern city of Idlib, controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, slogans hostile to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were raised voicing their opposition to such a deal.
There have been ongoing demonstrations following a meeting between the defense chiefs of Turkey and Syria in Moscow. Ankara has indicated that such a rapprochement would continue in 2023 through a meeting between the foreign ministers.
Cavusoglu tweeted pictures of his meeting with the Syrian opposition reiterating Turkey’s support to the Syrian opposition and "its people."
Why it matters: Turkey’s internal politics have been challenged with increasing calls by the Turkish opposition for the voluntary return of almost 4 million Syrian refugees who are currently residing in Turkey. In addition, anti-refugee sentiments have been increasing among the population. Kurdish groups also called on the Turkish president to recall the troops.
With presidential elections in Turkey set for June of this year, Ankara’s backing of factions in the Syrian war and the Kurdish issue are in the public spotlight.
Know more: Cavusoglu had stated on Saturday that he might be meeting his Syrian counterpart in mid-January, following Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s offer to hold a three-way meeting between the top Turkish, Syrian and Russian diplomats.
The latter could potentially lead to a presidential summit between the Syrian, Turkish and Russian presidents.
Turkey and Syria have been engaged in a proxy war for 12 years now following Ankara’s support of opposition groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Turkey is home to around 3.6 million Syrian refugees.