Iraq reactivates rapprochement track between Ankara and Damascus

Iraq leads new rapprochement efforts whose outlines are not yet defined and whether they will start from scratch or continue from where the quadrilateral table (Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime) left off

Iraq leads new rapprochement efforts whose outlines are not yet defined and whether they will start from scratch or continue from where the quadrilateral table (Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime) left off


Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud

A series of political statements from Iraqi and Turkish officials since early June have brought the issue of Turkish rapprochement with the Syrian regime back to the forefront.

The rapprochement efforts initiated and sponsored by Moscow on December 28, 2022, officially collapsed on January 29, 2023, as announced by the Russian President’s envoy, Alexander Lavrentiev.

Despite the official Russian announcement attributing the collapse to both parties (Turkey and the Syrian regime) holding onto their perspectives and conditions regarding normalization, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attributed the stumbling and current impossibility of the normalization steps to the situation in Gaza, according to the Russian Novosti agency on March 2.

The conditions mentioned by Lavrov have not changed; on the contrary, the situation is worsening in terms of the number of deaths and destruction in Gaza, and the steadfast conditions that both parties (Israel and Hamas) hope to achieve in the Gaza talks.

In light of these data, Iraq is leading new rapprochement efforts whose outlines are not yet defined and whether they will start from scratch or continue from where the quadrilateral table (Turkey, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime) left off.

Swift steps

On June 5, an Iraqi government source mentioned that a meeting would soon be held between Syrian regime and Turkish officials in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

According to the Iraqi Shafaq news agency, quoting an informed government source, Iraq’s efforts to dissolve disputes between Syria and Turkey and attempt to restore relations between the two countries have resulted in a meeting to be held between officials from Damascus and Ankara in Baghdad shortly.

The agency added that Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani aims to reconcile the two countries and restore their relations, which is why he agreed with officials from the Syrian regime and Turkey to sit at the dialogue table through a meeting in Baghdad.

The Iraqi agency indicated that there is “significant welcome” from both Damascus and Ankara for Iraq’s mediation, adding that al-Sudani and his government team “have reached positive results through this mediation via unannounced bilateral contacts and meetings.”

Discussions around such a meeting coincided with a phone call between the regime’s president Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister al-Sudani.

The Syrian Presidency platforms on social media mentioned that the call covered common issues, including strengthening border security, cooperation in combating terrorism, enhancing bilateral cooperation, and the Israeli war on Gaza, without any reference to the discussions hosted by Baghdad.

A day before the call, during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stated that the primary condition for any Syrian-Turkish dialogue is Ankara’s announcement of its readiness to withdraw from Syrian territories.

Mekdad, during his meeting with his Iranian counterpart Ali Bagheri Kani in Damascus, said, “We do not negotiate with those who occupy our lands,” adding that “Turkey’s continued occupation of our lands and support for terrorist and armed forces in northern Syria is unacceptable.”

Mekdad also demanded precise Turkish commitments reflecting Ankara’s commitment to withdraw from the “occupied” Syrian lands and to stop supporting “terrorist” organizations, according to the official Syrian news agency (SANA).

Turkish request?

The Syrian regime’s emphasis on its stance regarding negotiations with Ankara, which it has consistently maintained before, during, and after each meeting of the quadrilateral track in Moscow, came after statements from al-Sudani on May 31, revealing an Iraqi future role in achieving “reconciliation” between Turkey and the Syrian regime.

During an interview with the Turkish newspaper Haberturk, al-Sudani said that Iraq played a major role in establishing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it was not easy, but Iraq succeeded.

He added, “We are trying to create such a foundation for reconciliation and dialogue between Syria and Turkey,” noting that he conducts ongoing discussions about this matter with the Turkish president and the Syrian regime president, hoping there would be steps in this regard soon.

For Ankara, the conditions it set in June 2023 have not changed, confirmed by Turkish Defense Minister Yaşar Güler on June 1, who expressed Turkey’s readiness for military withdrawal from Syria, under specific and already known frameworks and conditions for Ankara.

He stated that negotiations with the Syrian regime involve four parties: Iran, Turkey, the Syrian regime, and Russia, aiming for a political solution in Syria based on the UN Security Council resolution (referring to resolution 2254).

Güler added, “We are ready to support establishing a comprehensive constitution, conducting free elections, creating a comprehensive normalization and security environment. Once this is accomplished and our border security is entirely secured, we might consider withdrawal if necessary,” as reported by Turkish media, including “Odatv.”

The researcher in Turkish relations, Mahmoud Alloush, explained to Enab Baladi that Prime Minister al-Sudani’s mediation offer between Ankara and Damascus might be driven by a Turkish request since it coincided with the Turkish president’s visit to Iraq. However, it does not eliminate al-Sudani’s desire to showcase Baghdad’s regional stature by attempting to mediate such issues, aligning with Baghdad’s new foreign policy seeking to build relationships with various regional actors and bridge perspectives among conflicting parties.

On April 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Iraq for the first time in 12 years. His one-day visit, accompanied by a delegation of Turkish government ministers, included meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister.

Alternative to the quadrilateral table?

Regarding Baghdad’s potential success in achieving rapprochement between the two sides after more than a year of Russian efforts without concrete results beyond meetings at defense and foreign ministers’ levels and intelligence leaders of the four parties, researcher Mahmoud Alloush sees it as difficult for Baghdad to achieve significant results in this path. He notes that the complexities facing this track are substantial and are not about the intermediaries’ competence but rather the challenge of finding common ground between Ankara and Damascus that could push the dialogue process.

Alloush pointed out a new situation in Syria, summarized by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) intending to hold local elections and uncertainties surrounding the future of the US military presence in Syria, alongside recent shifts in Turkish-Iraqi relations, possibly creating new dynamics in Turkey’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (considered a terrorist organization and seen by Turkey as connected to the Autonomous Administration in Syria).

These changes incentivize Turkey and Damascus to find common ground because the separatist project poses a serious threat to Syria’s territorial integrity, which goes against the interests of both the Syrian regime and Turkey, according to Alloush.

After initially announcing it for June 11, the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria postponed municipal elections on June 6 without specifying a new date, citing the delay as a response to requests from participating political parties and coalitions and to ensure a democratic electoral process.

Over recent days, there have been various opposing reactions to this step from institutions and political entities against the regime, such as the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) and the political bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and from regional and Syrian-related active nations. The US stated that any elections in Syria must be “free, fair, transparent, and inclusive,” conditions not currently available in northeastern Syria, according to US State Department senior spokesperson Vedant Patel on May 30.

On the same day, President Erdoğan emphasized that Turkey will not allow the establishment of a “terrorist” organization in northern Syria and Iraq, south of its borders, and that nothing can be achieved by imposing de facto situations.


Without a broad framework for any progress in the negotiations between Ankara and Damascus, this track cannot succeed. I mean the need for greater Russian-Iranian involvement alongside Baghdad to push the process forward, without relying on the Iraqi government’s mediation alone unless the quadrilateral parties desire to push the dialogue process.

Mahmoud Alloush, Researcher in Turkish Relations


Alloush ruled out that Iraq’s role in this matter would eliminate the need for the quadrilateral committee in the rapprochement path, whose current task is to set a roadmap for normalization of Turkish relations with the regime, making it necessary. Thus, any real progress in this path without any new mediation role cannot be achieved unless it results from the quadrilateral work.

Official ties between Turkey and the Syrian regime were cut off due to the Syrian regime’s security approach to the popular uprising in 2011, Turkey’s backing of protests, and later its support for opposition factions spread in northern Syria, alongside military formations supported by them.

Despite the disputes, both sides agree on the necessity of dismantling the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) project in northeastern Syria, considered by Ankara as an extension of the banned and terrorist-listed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and viewed by Damascus as a separatist project.



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