In an effort to mediate between Israel and Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, conducted talks with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in the city of Aleppo. The meeting focused on achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Erdogan's visit to Syria was his sixth since he became the Turkish prime minister in 2003.
Al-Assad and Erdogan both emphasised the importance of true political will to achieve peace based on the application of international resolutions and Israel’s withdrawal from Arab territories, including the Golan Heights.
The parties agreed to "continue work and intensify efforts to lift sanctions imposed on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip." The two leaders also underscored "the importance of ongoing efforts to achieve a Palestinian reconciliation that ensures unity among them to bolster their efforts to regain their rights, and establish an independent Palestinian state." Al-Assad and Erdogan also stressed their continued support of the Iraqi government and its efforts to promote national reconciliation.
Before heading to Syria, Erdogan announced that, "Ankara has received requests to revive the peace process." He also stressed "the necessity of continuous work on this issue and ongoing preparations to revive the negotiations."
Turkey, which enjoys good relations with Syria, Israel and the U.S., plays the role of mediator in the indirect peace negotiations between Syria and Israel to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and peace to the region. Ankara mediated in four rounds of indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria last year. The negotiations came to a halt in January after the war in Gaza.
In recognition of his support for Arab issues, the University of Aleppo granted Erdogan an honourary doctorate on its 50th anniversary. It is the only university in Syria to teach the Turkish language. The first group of students majoring in Turkish will graduate next month.
The good relations between Damascus and Ankara culminate each year in the opening of their borders on Islamic holidays. This practise serves to facilitate the exchange of visits and trade, the volume of which reached nearly US$2 billion between the two countries last year.
Sources: Syrian news agencym SANA / Al-Hurra / Turkish newspaper