Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, plans to meet with President Bashar al-Assad in Syria to talk about ensuring the safe return of Syrian refugees in Turkey and a joint fight against terrorist organizations in Syria that pose a security threat to both countries, local media reported on Friday, citing the party’s spokesman.
Kürşat Zorlu, spokesman for the İYİ Party and Akşener’s top adviser, told the press at party headquarters in Ankara on Thursday that Akşener was planning to meet with Assad to discuss four important issues with him and that they would approach the Turkish Foreign Ministry about the plan.
According to Zorlu, the planned meeting concerns creating the necessary economic, social and security conditions for the return of Syrian refugees in Turkey; developing a joint strategy to end the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in order to protect Syria’s territorial integrity; developing a joint approach in the fight against other terrorist organizations operating in Syria and posing a security threat to both countries; and diplomatic support for the reconstruction of Syria.
The Turkish government strongly opposes the YPG, the main element of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), because of its ties to the PKK, which has long waged an insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
Officially, 3.7 million Syrians live in Turkey under temporary protection status.
Less than seven months before the presidential elections, their presence in the country has become a sensitive political issue, especially as Turkey struggles with an economic and currency crisis. Opposition parties regularly call on authorities to send millions of Syrians home.
“We see these issues as above the parties. We believe we will end this process in favor of our nation. … We have decided to officially inform the Foreign Ministry [Friday] or Monday about our chairperson’s call for a solution and reconciliation,” Zorlu added.
The announcement of Akşener’s plans to meet with Assad comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly stated in recent months that a meeting with the Syrian president was possible because “there is no resentment in politics.”
The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, has killed nearly half a million people and driven about half of the country’s population from their homes.