Ministers of rivals Turkey and Syria meet in Moscow after more than a decade

The defence ministers of rivals Turkey and Syria met in Moscow after more than a decade along with their Russian counterpart in an effort to normalise ties between them amid the long-running Syrian war.

Wednesday’s ministerial-level meeting, which also had their intelligence chiefs in attendance, was the first to have taken place since the Syrian crisis began 11 years ago.

Russia had been trying to broker peace between Turkey and the Syrian government, as the two Moscow allies stood on opposite sides in Syria’s civil war.

Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defence minister and Hakan Fidan, the head of its National Intelligence Organization (MIT), met with Syrian defence minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas and Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk in Moscow along with Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, the Turkish defence ministry said.

The discussion focused on the “Syrian crisis, refugee issue and efforts of joint fight against all terror organisations on Syrian soil,” said the ministry statement, adding they would continue to hold trilateral meetings.

Turkey-backed rebels have tried to oust Syrian president Bashar Assad, while Damascus has denounced Turkey’s hold over stretches of territory in northern Syria, which were seized in Turkish military incursions launched since 2016 to drive Kurdish militant groups away from the frontier.

Russia’s defence ministry confirmed the three ministers discussed ways to resolve the conflict, with the parties agreeing on the need for “constructive nature of the dialogue… and the need to continue it in the interests of further stabilising the situation” in Syria and the region as a whole.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan this month announced that he suggested Vladimir Putin to form a trilateral mechanism with Russia and Syria to accelerate diplomacy between them. He also said he wanted to meet Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.

The efforts for reconciliation between the two countries come as Mr Erdogan prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June next year. He is facing intense domestic pressure to send Syrian refugees back home, as the country tackles an economic crisis.

After a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul last month, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would mount a land operation into northern Syria on targets linked to the YPG militia, which Ankara says is a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party.

Russia has opposed a new offensive by the Turkish military.

Additional reporting from the wires