Turkish, Syrian regime intelligence chiefs meet in Moscow
The heads of Turkish intelligence and Syrian regime intelligence met in Moscow on Monday, a senior Turkish official and regime news agency SANA have said, the first time in years two security chiefs have met.
This is the first time Turkey and the Syrian regime have acknowledged contact on such a senior level, although both have previously reported lower level intelligence contacts.
Turkey broke off relations with the Assad regime in 2011, following the Assad regime's brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests. It has backed anti-Assad rebels in the Syrian conflict and hosted more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
The Assad regime has received crucial backing from Iran and Russia and now has the upper hand in the conflict, with rebels effectively being trapped in the Idlib region, which has been fiercely bombed by Russia and the regime.
The head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation, Hakan Fidan, discussed the current ceasefire in Idlib, as well as the possibility of cooperation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria with General Ali Mamlouk, the head of the Syrian regime’s National Security Bureau in the Russian capital, according to Reuters.
Fidan's discussions with Mamlouk included "the possibility of working together against the YPG, the terrorist organisation PKK's Syrian component, in the east of the Euphrates River, Reuters quoted an anonymous Turkish official as saying.
Mamlouk has been placed under European sanctions for his involvement in the repression of protesters. In 2018, France issued an arrest warrant for Mamlouk, charging him with collusion in torture, involvement in forced disappearances, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Mamlouk called on Turkey to "fully adhere to the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic" and withdraw its troops from Syria, according to SANA.
He reiterated the Assad regime's intention to "liberate the whole region of Idlib" from "terrorists".
Over 1,600 people have been killed and an estimated million more displaced since April 2019 as a result of the regime's assault on Idlib.
While Turkey has been hostile to the Syrian regime, it has become increasingly closer to its main backer, Russia.
In October, Turkey and Russia signed the Sochi Agreement, under which regime and Russian forces deployed to northeastern Syria to oversee the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, allowing Turkey to set up a "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Turkish border.
Turkey has also purchased S-400 missiles from Russia, angering the United States, its ally in NATO.
Agencies contributed to this report.