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Russian, Syrian, Turkish defence ministers meet in Moscow for first talks since 2011

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The defence ministers of Russia, Turkey and Syria met in Moscow on Wednesday, the first such talks since a war broke out in Syria, the Russian defence ministry said.

It was also the first meeting between the defence ministers of Turkey and Syria since the start of the war in 2011. 

Russia and Turkey are both involved in Syria, with Moscow supporting the Damascus regime against its opponents, and Ankara backing rebels.

The meeting came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch a military offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish groups.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Turkish and Syrian counterparts, Hulusi Akar and Ali Mahmoud Abbas, discussed “ways to resolve the Syrian crisis, the problem of refugees, and joint efforts to combat extremist groups in Syria”, said the Russian defence ministry.

It added that the meeting had been “constructive” with a need to “continue it in the interests of further stabilising the situation” in Syria and the region.

The Turkish defence ministry struck a similar note, saying the meeting was held in a “constructive atmosphere”.

“At the meeting, the Syrian crisis, the refugee problem and joint efforts to combat all terrorist organisations in Syria were discussed,” the ministry said.

Syria’s state news agency SANA, quoting the defence ministry, said that the Syrian spy chief was also present and the meeting was “positive.”

The report said that the Syrian defence minister and the head of the Syrian intelligence service met with their Turkish counterparts in Moscow, with Russian officials also taking part.

On Saturday, Akar told reporters that Turkey was in talks with Russia about using Syrian airspace in a possible operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

“We are holding discussions with the Russians about the opening of the airspace” in Syria, he said.

The Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers had a brief informal exchange on the sidelines of a regional summit in 2021, and Ankara had acknowledged contacts between intelligence services of the two countries.

In November, Erdogan said a meeting with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was a possibility, after cutting diplomatic ties with Damascus throughout the 11-year conflict.

In mid-December, he indicated that he could meet with Assad after defence and foreign ministers from the two countries had met.

“We want to take a step as Syria, Turkey and Russia,” he said at the time.


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