Halting Syrian opposition TV channels in Turkey “would be a goodwill indicator”: Former al-Assad Ambassador to Ankara

The former Syrian ambassador to Turkey, Nidal Kabalan, with the president of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad (edited by Enab Baladi)

The former Syrian ambassador to Turkey, Nidal Kabalan, with the president of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad (edited by Enab Baladi)


There has been much talk in Syrian circles about a political rapprochement between Turkey and the Syrian regime, the most prominent of which was a recent intelligence meeting between the head of the Turkish Intelligence Service, Hakan Fidan, and the director of the National Security Office of the Syrian regime, Ali Mamlouk.

Former Ambassador of Syria to Ankara, Nidal Kabalan, said that there has been progress, albeit limited, in the normalization of relations between Turkey and Syria and that Damascus expects a concrete step from Turkey at this point.

Answering BBC TURK’s questions over the phone from Damascus, Kabalan stated that the Syrian administration is generally in favor of normalization but that the absence of an official statement on this issue is related to this expectation.

Kabalan argued that Syria had many demands from Turkey but that stopping the broadcasts of Syrian opposition TV channels in Turkey at the first stage would be seen as an important goodwill indicator, according to BBC Turkish.

Who is Nidal Kabalan?

Kabalan is a Syrian journalist and broadcaster, born in the village of al-Rudaima in the southern As-Suwayda governorate.

He has activities in the press and media sector, starting with his participation in the establishment of the Saudi media group “MBC,” then his work in the local Syrian media.

In 2009, Kabalan stood before the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, to be sworn in as Syria’s ambassador to Ankara.

At the beginning of his mission, Kabalan told the local “eSyria” news site that al-Assad had instructed to give the utmost importance to pushing relations with Turkey forward in all fields.

Press Enemy

Kabalan re-published an old report that included his media career with MBC and his meeting with former US President Bill Clinton, his achievement and long career, and commented on it that he was one of the founders of MBC and that his work contract in it was the first contract issued by the media group, expressing his annoyance that MBC ignored him.

In his Facebook post, considering that it “attempted to obliterate or distort what he presented and accomplished during six years.”

Kabalan claimed that his problem with working for MBC is that it has turned into a platform for “promoting normalization with Israel.”

Kabalan said in the BBC TURK interview that stopping the broadcasts of opposition Syrian TV channels in Turkey will be a sign of goodwill, and a positive response will be given to it.

“In my personal opinion, it would be a small and highly feasible step for Turkey to stop the Syrian opposition TV channels broadcasting in this country from working.”

Syrian regime demands

On the sidelines of the meeting between the head of the National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan, and his Syrian counterpart, Ali Mamluk, that was held recently in Damascus, Kabalan spoke about the seriousness of the Turkish position on rapprochement with the regime.

The former Ambassador of Syria to Ankara cites a number of demands; Damascus urged for the complete control of Idlib governorate to the Syrian regime, giving the control of the M4 highway between Aleppo-Latakia to the regime again, and ensuring the lifting of sanctions against Syrian institutions and individuals.

In addition to cessation of the military, financial, and intelligence support to groups that both Syria and the countries of the region define as “terrorists.”

Position corresponds with regime vision 

During his interview with BBC TURK, Kabalan states that these developments are closely followed by the public and government circles in Syria as well.

Also, in reference to the Russian war on Ukraine, Kabalan considered that these developments may lead to the imposition of a new world order.

Evaluating the statement and developments, Kabalan says, “I see limited progress” on the normalization between the two countries, adding that Damascus has not yet issued an official statement on the issue of rapprochement, but the recent news stories deepened the debates in the Turkish public about the allegations of the normalization process between Ankara and Damascus.

The former ambassador argues that normalization between Syria and Turkey is a necessity of the national interests of both countries.

Kabalan says that time is needed for the real normalization of relations and for the opening of embassies, according to BBC TRUK.

Months and perhaps years ago, Kabalan’s stances on Turkey were more severe. He said during press interviews in earlier times that the diplomatic rupture between the two neighboring countries was due to “political, psychological and historical reasons linked to the dream of restoring the historical glories of the Ottomans.”

Kabalan asserted at the time that Turkey is trying to keep the largest number of cards on the negotiating table, pointing out that what Turkey is building in northern Syria is a “new Turkification policy.”

Rapprochement Table

On 15 September, Reuters reported that the head of the National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan, and his Syrian counterpart, Ali Mamluk, recently held talks in Damascus, according to a “pro-Damascus regional source.”

In Turkey, there was no denial of the news from official sources.

During the meeting, it was evaluated how the foreign ministers of the two countries might eventually meet, according to whom Reuters said is a senior Turkish official, in addition to a Turkish security source as well.

On 11 August, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu revealed a “short” conversation he had with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting held in October 2021 in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Cavusoglu stressed at the time the need to reach “reconciliation” between the opposition and the Syrian regime, considering that there will be no “lasting peace without achieving this.”

These statements were followed by demonstrations in separate areas of northwestern Syria, rejecting “reconciliation” and emphasizing the continuity of the Syrian revolution.

On the 24th of the same month, the Turkish Foreign Minister met a delegation from the Syrian opposition, led by the head of the Syrian National Coalition, Salem Al-Meslet.

Cavusoglu affirmed his country’s support for the opposition’s contribution to the political process within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, without additional details about what was discussed during the meeting.

For his part, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated, on 19 August, that Turkey’s concern is not “defeating al-Assad,” but rather reaching a political solution and reaching an agreement between the opposition and the regime.


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