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First Turkey-Syria FM meeting in Russia agrees to work on refugees, terrorism

Ankara, for its part, stressed the need for cooperation on the return of Syrian refugees, the top Turkish diplomat said ahead of Turkey's crucial elections.
Foreign Ministers’ quadripartite meeting.

ANKARA, Turkey — The top Turkish and Syrian diplomats discussed the return of Syrian refugees and cooperation against terrorism during their first face to face meeting hosted in Moscow on Wednesday.

In a tweet after the four-way meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote that he stressed the need to work together to establish the basis for the return of Syrians during his meeting with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad. Cavusoglu added that he stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the revival of the political process in Syria going forward and the protection of Syria’s territorial integrity.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also attended the Russian-brokered, high-level talks, aiming to strike reconciliation between the Turkish and Syrian governments after more than a decade of hostilities.

Citing a Russian Foreign Ministry statement, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported that the four top diplomats agreed to work on a roadmap in a bid to advance ties between Ankara and Damascus. "The participants also agreed on tasking the deputy foreign ministers to prepare a road map to advance the relations between [Turkey] and Syria in coordination with the work of ministries of defense and special services of the four countries,” the Russian statement said, according to Tass.

The Turkish government has sought to speed up the talks ahead of the critical presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.  More than 4 million Syrian refugees remain one of the top concerns among the majority of Turkish voters. 

First such meeting in Russia

The Moscow meeting marked the first of its kind at the foreign ministerial level. But Mekdad and Cavusoglu met in Belgrade in August of last year. 

The Russia talks started with a meeting between the Turkish, Syrian, and Russian defense and intelligence chiefs in Moscow last December. Iran later joined the talks, with four countries' defense ministers and intelligence chiefs holding a gathering last month.

Russia, which along with Iran backs the Syrian government in the country’s civil war, has long been pressing Turkey and Syria to strike a reconciliation. The diplomatic ties between Ankara and Damascus were severed following the Syrian government’s violent crackdown in 2012. Turkey, which backs Sunni Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, controls a large chunk of territory in the country’s north following four ground operations since 2016. 

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