Turkey’s Erdogan, Syria’s Assad Signal Readiness to Restore Ties

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed Syrian counterpart Bashar Al-Assad in expressing a willingness to restore diplomatic relations, a policy shift backed by Russia that could help end the long-running war in Syria.

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Erdogan said Friday that restoring friendly ties with Assad is not “impossible.” The two leaders, who once had a close relationship, fell out early in the Syrian civil war starting 2011 due to Turkey’s support for the rebel group seeking to overthrow Assad.

The Syrian president said recently that he’s open to restoring ties based on respect for his country’s sovereignty, according to the official news agency SANA.

More: Why Efforts to End Syria War Have Gained New Impetus: QuickTake

With backing from Russia and Iran, Assad’s government has regained control of much of Syria, prompting Turkey to shift its focus to Kurdish militants in the north of the country. Erdogan perceives them as a threat due to their ties to Turkey’s PKK, which has been seeking autonomy within Turkey for decades and is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union and the US.

Erdogan has long argued that a 1998 security accord with Damascus gave Turkey the right to attack Kurdish forces in Syria if they posed a threat. Russian and Iranian officials have suggested that reviving the so-called Adana Agreement could pave the way for Erdogan to resume cooperation with Damascus.

--With assistance from Firat Kozok.

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