Turkey’s Erdoğan signals normalisation in Ankara-Damascus relations  – columnist

Recent statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan be interpreted as indication of normalisation of relations between the Turkish and Syrian governments, Sedat Ergin, a columnist of Hürriyet newspaper said on Saturday.

A day before the start of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria, Erdoğan said Syrian air space in northeast Syria should be controlled by the Bashar Assad government rather than the United States.

“Since Erdoğan has emphasised the rights of the (Syrian) regime over air space, this acknowledgement strengthens the claims that Turkey should establish relations with the regime in Damascus,” Ergin said.

Erdoğan also said that Ankara and Damascus remained in contact via Russia. The president previously said in February that it was normal for countries to keep in contact through intelligence agencies even if they were enemies.

The fact that Erdoğan cited a 1998 agreement between Ankara and Damascus as a justification of Turkey’s ongoing incursion in Syria also creates reasons for two countries to cooperate, the columnist said.

According to the 1998 Adana agreement, the Syrian government pledged to prohibit on Syrian soil the activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

Erdoğan still seems reluctant to reestablish relations with Assad, with whom he was close friends until the start of the civil war in Syria, Ergin said.

“Yet, despite this situation, we should acknowledge a tendency,” he said, adding that the Turkish Foreign Ministry also informed the Syrian government by a diplomatic note to the country’s consulate in Istanbul right before launching military offensive in northern Syria.

Thus, when we examine together those statements and signs, it is possible to say that a normalisation process between Ankara and Damascus seems to have started, albeit slowly and painfully,’’ Ergin said.