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Turkey dismisses Assad’s tirade, says withdrawal from Syria 'unimaginable' now

Turkey's defense minister says withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria would be "unimaginable" before his country’s national security concerns are addressed.
Newly appointed Minister of National Defense Yasar Guler speaks during his handover ceremony at the Ministry of National Defense, Ankara, Turkey, June 5, 2023.

ANKARA — Turkey’s Defense Minister Yasar Guler dismissed Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad’s demand of a Turkish withdrawal from the northern part of the war-torn country, saying such an outcome is not possible without Ankara “ensuring” border security.

In response to a question over Assad’s comments setting the Turkish troops’ withdrawal as a precondition to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, Guler said such a move would be unimaginable before securing Turkey’s national security.

“Turkey sincerely wants peace but we also do have sensitivities. It is unthinkable for us to withdraw without ensuring the security of our borders and our people,” Guler told Turkey’s pro-government A Haber TV over the weekend. 

In comments to Sky News Arabia last week, Assad brushed aside a potential meeting with Erdogan. “Erdogan's objective in meeting me is to legitimize the Turkish occupation in Syria. … Why should I and Erdogan meet? To have soft drinks?” he was quoted as saying.

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