Improved Syria-Turkey ties should seek end to ‘occupation’: Assad

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Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said Thursday that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkey should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.

The comment, in a statement from his office, was Assad's first on meetings between officials from Ankara and Damascus after more than a decade of enmity during Syria's civil war.

Ankara became a sworn enemy of Damascus when it began backing rebel efforts to topple Assad at the start of the civil war 12 years ago.

But in late December the defense ministers of Turkey and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow -- the first such meeting since 2011.

Analysts say Moscow is trying to bridge the divide between its two allies, united by a common “enemy” -- US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Ankara describes those forces as “terrorists”.

Since 2016, Turkey has launched several incursions in northern Syria against Kurdish forces that have allowed it to control areas along the border.

Following the defense ministers' meeting, Ankara's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he and his Syrian and Russian counterparts would meet.

On Thursday he confirmed the gathering will be in Moscow.

“There is no clear date yet, but we will hold this tripartite meeting as soon as possible. Maybe at the beginning of February,” Cavusoglu said to Turkish reporters during a visit to Rwanda.

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