Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed a desire to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if the Syrian leader attended a summit being held in Uzbekistan, pro-government Hürriyet newspaper reported on Friday.
However, he noted that Assad is not participating in the summit.
Erdogan made the comments about Assad at a closed-door meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Monday.
“I wish Assad had come to Uzbekistan, I would have talked to him. But he can’t come there,” Erdogan said, according to the columnist, and then went on to make another historic “butt somersault”, showing the most clear change in attitude of Ankara to the Syrian leader: “He went to war with the rebels to preserve his own power. He chose to protect his own power. He thought to protect the areas he controlled. But he could not protect large areas,” he was quoted as saying Erdogan.
The report came after four sources told Reuters that Turkey’s intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, has held multiple meetings with his Syrian counterpart in Damascus in recent weeks, a sign of Russian efforts to encourage a warming of relations between the two states.
Any normalization between Ankara and Damascus would reshape the decade-long war in Syria.
Turkish support has been crucial to Syrian rebels and jihadists in their territorial stronghold in the northwest, after Assad defeated rebels across the rest of the country with help from Russia and Iran.