No political prospects for Türkiye - Syrian regime rapprochement talks
The defense and intelligence chiefs of Türkiye and the Syrian regime have so far held two meetings only since the begining of the Russian-mediated reaproachement talks between the two sides.
Russian and Iranian officials also attended these meetings as more ones are likely to be held after the end of the Turkish elections in mid-May 2023.
It seems that Türkiye wants to confine the normalization process with the Syrian regime in the initial stage to the military and security levels, keeping in mind that there should be no quick moves that would lead to extended political relations without specifying a clear roadmap through military and security talks that could provide a common ground for any upcoming rounds.
In fact, Türkiye seeks to outline a road map, through which further meetings can be held until reaching political coordination, bypassing the following unresolved issues:
• The fate of the Turkish forces: Türkiye insists on maintaining its military presence in Syria until terrorist threats are eliminated, and a political solution is reached under the auspices of the United Nations. Ankara also believes that withdrawing its forces will result a security vacuum. In other words Türkiye is not ready to respond to the regime's demands that calls for evacuating the Turkish military positions in Syria as a prelude to normalizing relations.
• The relationship with the Syrian opposition: Türkiye does not agree to the request made by the regime that demanded to deal with it as the only legitimate Syrian party. However, Ankara insists on keeping relationship with the Syrian opposition and wants to ensure its position and involvement in the final solution in Syria.
• Counter-terrorism: Ankara wants to reach an effective and clear mechanism for combating terrorism, targeting terrorist organizations, with a primary focus on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian branch, PYD-YPG without using this issue to target the Syrian opposition factions. Türkiye is also wary about the returning of the military operations to northwest Syria under the pretext of combating terrorism, which may lead to instability and new waves of migration towards the Turkish territory.
• The return of refugees: Ankara wants the regime to provide guarantees not to hinder the return of refugees to their cities and villages.
It is unlikely that the regime will respond to Türkiye's demands in the near and medium-terms, especially in light of Iran's support for the regime, given that Tehran’s approach is basically based on enabling the regime forces and the Iranian- affiliated militias to control the Syrian territories, without any indication of a political solution in which the Syrian opposition has a role.
As a result, assuming that the talks between Ankara and Damascus continue after the Turkish election, the normalization process will remain limited to the military and security levels, without a clear prospect of reaching a political solution in Syria.