Turkey Seeks to Restore Ties With Syria, Iraq

Turkey Seeks to Restore Ties With Syria, IraqTurkey Seeks to Restore Ties With Syria, Iraq

Turkey aims to develop good relations with Syria and Iraq, and both countries need to be stable for counter-terrorism efforts to succeed, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Wednesday.

Turkey has long been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest opponents, arguing that only his departure could stabilize Syria. The stance set it at odds with Assad’s ally Russia.

Since taking office in May, Yildirim has repeatedly said that Turkey needs to “increase its friends and decrease its enemies”, an apparent tacit admission that past policies have sidelined Ankara, Reuters reported.

“It is our greatest and irrevocable goal: Developing good relations with Syria and Iraq, and all our neighbors that surround the Mediterranean and the Black Sea,” Yildirim said, in comments broadcast live on television.

The development follows reports that Turkish and Syrian officials were secretly meeting in Algeria.

The US support for Kurdish militants in Syria has angered both governments, a shared opposition to an autonomous Kurdish region seemingly pushing them to reconcile.

“We normalized relations with Russia and Israel. I’m sure we will normalize relations with Syria as well. For the fight against terrorism to succeed, stability needs to return to Syria and Iraq,” he said.

“We expect the other powers in the region to put aside competition and no longer ignore the humanity that is being destroyed,” he added.

Turkey last month announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel after a six-year rupture and expressed regret to Russia over the downing of a warplane, seeking to mend strained alliances.

Officials have insisted those moves do not mark a broader foreign policy shift for Ankara.

Prior to the current unrest in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had referred to President Assad as a “friend” and had worked to strengthen economic and military ties between the two nations.

In 2009, Syria’s ambassador to the United States told an audience at the University of Oklahoma that “Turkey is Syria’s best friend”.

  Russia Hits IS

The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has been dealt a major blow near east of Palmyra, Syria, by long-range bombers flying from Russia.

Six Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have delivered massive airstrikes against a major IS camp and ammunition depots in Syria, RT reported Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying.

The bombers, based at one of Russian’s southern air bases, took off on Tuesday morning, passed through Iranian and Iraqi airspace and delivered concentrated high-explosive ammunition airstrikes on terrorist targets east of the towns of Palmyra and As Sukhnah, and the village of Arak.

All aircraft have successfully returned to home base, the ministry said in a statement.

The Russian military stated that the information on the eliminated targets was acquired over the last several days and confirmed through several intelligence channels.

The US-led anti-terrorist coalition was notified of the airstrikes in advance, the ministry says.

Moscow launched a major anti-terrorist campaign in Syria in September 2015 against IS, Al-Qaeda offshoot Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups.

Although Russia has withdrawn the main part of its forces from Syria a few month ago, it has maintained a military presence, in particular at the port of Tartus and at Khmeimim airbase.