Apr 26, 2023 07:43 UTC
  • Withdrawal of Turkish troops discussed at four-party meeting in Moscow: Syria

Damascus says defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of Russia, Syria, Turkey, and Iran have discussed the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Arab country, as efforts continue to mend ties between Ankara and Damascus.

Syria's official news agency SANA, citing the country’s Defense Ministry, reported that the participants discussed the issue at a four-party meeting in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Tuesday.

"Participants in the talks discussed the issue of withdrawing Turkish troops from Syrian territory," it said. "They also discussed implementing the special agreement related to movements along the M4 international highway."

The M4 international highway crosses five provinces in northern Syria, and is considered a major crossing for the international shipping route that connects Turkey, Iraq and Jordan via Syria.

Syrian officials have on numerous occasions said that any move towards normalizing ties between Syria and Turkey can only come after Ankara agrees to pull out thousands of troops it has stationed in northwest of the Arab country. 

This came after Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad called on Ankara to put an end to its military presence in Syria.

"It is impossible to talk about normalizing relations with Turkey amid its occupation of Syria’s northern areas," he stressed.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Defense Ministry said practical steps were discussed during the quadrilateral meeting to strengthen security in Syria and normalize Syrian-Turkish relations.

Special attention was focused on efforts to "counter terrorist threats and combat extremist groups in Syria," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Turkey’s Ministry of Defense also announced that the parties had discussed “concrete steps” that can be taken to normalize Turkish-Syrian relations.

It also said “the fight against terrorist organizations and all extremist groups” was discussed at the quadrilateral meeting, adding that stepping up efforts to return Syrian refugees to their countries was another issue on the agenda of the four countries.