20:41 GMT +318 September 2018
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    The silhouette of a Syrian man is seen through an election campaign portrait of President Bashar al-Assad he hangs it on a billboard on May 11, 2014 in the capital Damascus.

    It's Time for Ankara to Lend a Hand to Assad – Turkish Politician

    © AFP 2018 / JOSEPH EID
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    Ankara needs to mend fences with Damascus, which would play into the hands of both countries, Turkish analysts told Sputnik. According to them, the resumption of ties with the Syrian government could help Turkey overcome the ongoing economic crisis and ensure the safety of the Syrian-Turkish border regions.

    "Turkey should primarily establish a dialogue with [Bashar] Assad, who is a legitimate representative of the Syrian authorities, to further maintain the territorial integrity, political unity and the process of the Syrian settlement, since it is in the interests of Turkey," Ozturk Yilmaz, the deputy chair of the Turkish opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) responsible for foreign relations, told Sputnik Turkey.

    Yilmaz's comment comes in response to an op-ed written by prominent Turkish journalist Mehmet Barlas for Sabah on September 4. Barlas insisted that Ankara should help the Assad government carry out constitutional reform and elections in Syria. He also warned the Turkish leadership against engaging in political confrontation with Russia over the upcoming Idlib operation.

    According to Yilmaz, Assad will likely further strengthen his position in Syria. The resumption of ties with Damascus will allow Turkey to support its economy amid the ongoing crisis and ensure the security of the country's southern borders, he opined.

    "Now [Turkey] is affected by a negative impact of the economic crisis, and if it establishes dialogue with the Syrian authorities, Turkish companies, primarily engaged in construction and food industry, will gain new opportunities," the politician presumed. "The door that was once closed could be opened again. This step will benefit all regional players. In addition, Turkey will be able to ensure the security of its border regions in the south."

    Yilmaz noted that Turkey's opposition to Assad had proven inefficient. He stressed that the Syrian president had overcome the most difficult period of war and was steadily gaining ground in the country. Under these circumstances, it is highly unlikely that he would step down, he remarked.

    Hasan Unal, head of the department of international relations at Atilim University in Ankara, shares a similar stance.

    "In light of the latest events that we are witnessing on the Syrian theater of war, the debate on whether Damascus will be able to rebuild the centralized state system in the country is fading away. Over the past two years, the Syrian government has taken control of a significant part of the country's territory thanks to its military successes."

    The Turkish scholar expressed confidence that the Syrian territories under jihadi control would be returned to Damascus in the near future: "Given this, Mehmet Barlas writes in his article about the victory won by Damascus, urging the Turkish leadership to take into account the reality on the ground and take a step towards normalizing relations with Syria."

    According to Unal, Barlas's op-ed is indicative, as it was published in a Turkish newspaper that is known for being close to the country's government circles.

    The scholar believes that the upcoming trilateral meeting between the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Tehran, which is expected to take place on September 7 in Tehran, will further shed light on the situation surrounding the Syrian conflict.

    He emphasized certain discrepancies in Turkey's approach to the Syrian problem: "On the one hand, Ankara insists on the need to maintain the territorial integrity of Syria and clear the country of terrorist elements, and on the other hand, it opposes the operation in Idlib."

    Unal stressed that it remains unclear how the Turkish leadership want to liquidate the terrorist threat without conducting a counter-terror operation in the region. If Ankara wants Idlib to preserve an autonomous status, that would mean it does not support Syria's sovereignty, the scholar highlighted.

    "Will Turkey take the side of the US and its Western allies in the event of a new missile strike on Syria? If so, how will this affect the cooperation of Turkey, Russia and Iran?" he asked rhetorically stressing that lots of questions still remain open.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced his opposition to the forthcoming Syrian Arab Army's operation in Idlib. According to the Turkish president, the offensive is fraught with tremendous risks.

    Previously, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his American counterpart Mike Pompeo agreed that the Idlib offensive by the Syrian Arab Army was "unacceptable."

    For its part, Moscow pointed out that, being the last terrorist stronghold, Idlib poses a significant challenge to Damascus's efforts to proceed with a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    offensive, The Syrian war, Syrian Arab Army, Bashar al-Assad, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Idlib, Iran, Turkey, Syria, United States, Russia
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