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Moscow working toward hosting Assad-Erdogan meeting, Russian envoy says

It is reported that that Ankara and Damascus have maintained communication through intelligence services only

CAIRO, December 2. /TASS/. Moscow is working toward hosting a meeting between Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said in an interview with Al Arabiya, released on Friday.

Commenting on a potential Assad-Erdogan meeting in Russia, Lavrentyev said that Moscow supported such talks. "I reiterate that Turkey should consider this (opportunity to hold a meeting in Russia - TASS), and we insist that such a meeting could be positive and useful overall and we are working toward that," he added.

Referring to a comment by Turkey’s top diplomat Mevlut Cavusoglu who said the time was not ripe yet for a meeting between Assad and Erdogan, the senior Russian diplomat said communication between the two depended on their wishes, not any timing. "We insist that <…> it is the willingness to meet each other halfway that matters the most, and we can feel such signs on the part of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who anticipated that Syria and Turkey should work toward bringing bilateral relations back to normal," Lavrentyev stressed.

Following Erdogan’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in early August, the Turkish media reported that Ankara was discussing establishing direct dialogue between the leaders of Turkey and Syria. Turkish officials have said that no such talks are being planned yet and that Ankara and Damascus have maintained communication through intelligence services only.

Erdogan said following the European Political Community summit in Prague on October 6 that though a meeting with Assad was currently out of the question, he could meet the Syrian leader "when the right time emerges." On November 27, Erdogan said that relations between Ankara and Damascus might improve, as did his country’s dialogue with Cairo.