Ankara – Turkish former diplomat and current vice president of the Turkish Vatan (patriotic) Party, Ismail Haqqi Pekin, said that several meetings were held between Ankara and Damascus to normalize relations.
In exclusive comments to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Pekin said he has conducted five visits to Damascus, where he met with high-ranking Syrian officials, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Asked about Iran’s mediation role, Pekin said: “As a political party, we don’t need a mediator with Syria; all Turkish state institutions know that. It is possible that Tehran has arranged visits for other Turkish officials.”
Commenting on the role of Algeria in hosting meetings between officials from both countries, Pekin said that those meetings were perhaps held between intelligence services, noting that his party had nothing to do with it.
“I believe that meetings were still being held between both countries’ intelligence services; and some meetings are currently held in Tehran,” he said.
On the Syrian crisis, Pekin said that the Syrian regime would soon regain Aleppo.
“Today (Wednesday), forces from Turkey entered Aleppo. In few days, we will see that Syria will regain Aleppo thanks to the Syrian Army and Russia’s support,” Pekin said, adding: “If we don’t normalize relations and stop the fighting, we will see more blood.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim announced upon his appointment in May that Turkey would follow a new policy aimed at increasing its allies and limiting the number of its enemies in the region.
Since then, Turkey has normalized its relations with Russia and Israel, while Yildrim said that his country was seeking to mend ties with Iraq, Syria and Egypt.
Pekin told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that his meetings in Damascus touched on security and political issues, as well as economic and commercial cooperation.
The Turkish official noted that “reaching full normalization of relations with Syria was difficult but not impossible to achieve.”
“If we want to stop bloodshed in the Middle East, we need to quickly normalize relations between Turkey and Syria,” Pekin said.
He also stressed that Assad has welcomed efforts to mend ties with Turkey.
Commenting on claims that Ankara would not accept Assad’s presence in a permanent solution to the Syrian crisis, Pekin said: “Whether Turkey accepts it or not, we should admit that a big part of the Syrian population supports Assad.”
He went on to say that if Turkey wanted to stop the bloodshed in Syria, it should accept the presence of Assad at least in the first phase. “After that, the Syrian people will decide on this internal matter,” he added.
Meanwhile, IRNA reported on Tuesday that Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab-African Affairs Hussein Jaberi Ansari held a meeting with Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister for Regional Affairs Omid Yalcin to explore means to help resolve regional disputes through peaceful means.
The news agency reported Ansari as saying that the meeting with his Turkish counterpart lasted about four hours.
Ansari arrived in Ankara on Monday night to confer with his Turkish counterpart on regional developments.
The agency added that the two sides studied avenues to broaden scope of cooperation to thwart the humanitarian crises in the region.
They also exchanged views on major issues in the region and discussed the means to face extremism and terrorism, Ansari said.