Syria backs Turkish efforts to promote peace talks with Israel
Syria will cooperate with Turkey in its mediation to relaunch peace talks between Damascus and Tel Aviv but the latter has also to make an effort towards a deal, Syrian officials said Saturday. According to Reuters, President Bashar al Assad said after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in the Syrian capital that "Syria was ready to cooperate with Turkey in any effort that brings security and stability to the region."
"The meeting focused on ways to activate a just and comprehensive peace and the president praised Turkey for the efforts in this regard," the Syrian state news agency said.
Syrian officials said that the meeting focused on attempts by Turkey to help Syria and Israel relaunch negotiations that collapsed in 2000. Asked if the Turkish effort will succeed, one of the officials said: "There is another party to this equation."
"The next logical step should be proxy talks between Syrian and Israeli officials, but it is complex. Israel wants a price from Syria and the current U.S. administration is not interested in seeing Syria enjoy a peace deal," one of the diplomats said, according to Reuters.
The meeting between Erdogan and Assad was attended by Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Erdogan conveyed Syria and Israel had asked Turkey for mediation work to be launched and that such efforts would begin at a low level and move up the chain if successful. "As Turkey, we will make whatever efforts we can on this issue. In this respect, there is a request from Syria and in the same way a request from Israel," he told a news conference upon returning to Turkey.
Erdogan earlier opened a Syrian-Turkish business forum in Damascus and said that "misunderstandings" between the countries have opened way for economic and political cooperation. Erdogan expected volume of trade exchange to reach to US$2 billion at the end of this year. He said that the second meeting of the Syrian Turkish economic forum will be held in Turkey.
Erdogan said Turkey plans to remove minefields along the border with Syria that were planted to stop the movement of Kurdish rebels into Syria.