Turkey takes ‘serious’ steps to restore ties with Syria: PM

Turkey wants to normalise relations with Syria, the prime minister said Friday, confirming a policy shift after years of supporting rebels opposed to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“We have normalised our relations with Russia and Israel,” Binali Yildirim said in a televised speech.

“Now, God willing, Turkey has taken a serious initiative to normalise relations with Egypt and Syria.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim ©Adem Altan (AFP/File)

Relations between Turkey and Egypt sharply deteriorated after the Egyptian military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Syria, Turkey had persistently insisted Assad’s departure was key to any resolution of the country’s five-year war and backed rebels trying to oust him.

But last month Yildirim signalled a shift, saying that Assad was “one of the actors” in Syria and could stay on temporarily during a transitional period.

Last week, Turkey launched an operation against Islamic State jihadists and a Kurdish militia in northern Syria. Ankara said Damascus was forewarned of the operation, via Russia.

Since taking office in May, the Turkish premier has sought to resume Ankara’s longstanding policy of having “zero problems” with its neighbours.

In June, Turkey mended ties with Russia which were sorely tested by the shooting down by Turkey of a Russian warplane along the Syrian border.

Turkey this summer also normalised ties with Israel after a six-year rift caused by a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla.