Turkish and Iranian officials have announced that in April, deputy foreign ministers from Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia will convene in Moscow, building on recent discussions between Ankara and Damascus, who have been at odds during the 12-year Syrian conflict. Encouraged by Russia, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, the two countries resumed talks last year in an effort to normalise relations. However, President Assad has recently declined to meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan until Turkey withdraws its military forces from northern Syria, which Assad considers occupying forces.
According to a senior Turkish official, the upcoming meeting in Moscow between deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Russia will focus on discussing the current situation in Syria. The official added that the meeting is a continuation of previous discussions held at the ministerial level during the normalization process, but because it will be at a technical level and without ministerial-level participation, no significant decisions are expected to be made.
Officials at the Turkish foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment.
Russia hosted a meeting of the Syrian and Turkish defense ministers in December, since when the original tripartite talks have been widened to include Assad’s other ally Iran, which has publicly supported the rapprochement.
Turkey has sent forces into much of northern Syria during the war, and has backed the Syrian opposition.
A previously planned meeting of four countries’ deputy foreign ministers scheduled in March was postponed.
A senior Iranian foreign ministry official confirmed the meeting in Moscow in the first week of April.
A Syrian source with knowledge of the talks confirmed that a meeting between the deputy foreign ministers would take place soon but did not specify a date.
Citing Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported on Monday that the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria may hold consultations in Moscow in early April.
Erdogan, who once called Assad a terrorist, is facing the biggest political challenge of his two-decade rule in May when Turks vote in what is expected to be a tight election.