JAFFA, Israel – Iran is actively trying to bring Turkey and Syria closer together, according to a report in the international Saudi publication Asharq Al-Awsat, headquartered in London.
According to the report, Jaberi Anssari, an aide to the Iranian foreign ministry on Arab and Africa affairs, arrived in Ankara on Tuesday as the head of an official Iranian delegation in order to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. The newspaper claimed that the intention of the visit was to initiate a series of meetings between Syrian and Turkish officials mediated by Iran.
Asharq Al-Awsat quoted the Iranian news agency IRNA as saying that “A new development has occurred in Turkey’s policy toward the crisis in Syria. Turkey announced that it is ready to cooperate with Iran and Russia in order to find a solution to the Syrian crisis.”
The newspaper reported that Iranian sources in Turkey confirmed the reports of secret contacts between representatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad and representatives of the Turkish government. These contacts are intended to bring about a reconciliation between Assad and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior diplomat is leading the discussions from the Turkish side, along with Ismail Haqi, a Turkish army general who led negotiations with Syria during the 1998 crisis between the two countries over the leader of Kurdish PKK activists Abdullah Ocalan.
Haqi visited Damascus and met with senior Syrian officials, including the number two man of the ruling Ba’ath party, Abdullah Alahmar, and the commander of Syria’s National Security Council, general Ali Mamluk, as well as Foreign Minister Walid Muallam.
The newspaper reported that the Turkish diplomat informed his Syrian partners that Turkey still opposes the regime of President Assad as well as the possible division of Syria or the creation of a federal regime in the country, an idea that the Kurds are working to promote.
On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that, as Syria’s neighbor, Turkey is working with Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and others to effect a restart in relations with Syria. The prime minister added that the situation on the border between the two countries was worrying and that terrorist organizations are active on both sides of it.
He called for the establishment of a national unity government in Syria, restated the Turkish position against the division of the country, and stated, “Any attempt to establish a small political entity means that the current situation in Syria will continue for decades.”