Syria Says No Dialogue with Turkey Without Withdrawal Plans, Difficult Return of Refugees from Jordan

Syria’s foreign minister said Tuesday that any dialogue between Syria and Turkey should only take place after Ankara announces that it will withdraw its troops from all Syrian territories it controls, AP reported.

Faisal Mekdad made the comments during a joint news conference with Iran’s acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, after Turkey threatened in recent days to act against Kurdish-led authorities in Syria’s northeast as they prepare to hold municipal elections next week.

“The main condition to any Syrian-Turkish dialogue is for Ankara to announce its readiness to withdraw from our lands that it occupies,” Mekdad said. “We do not negotiate with those who occupy our land.”

Bagheri Kani said Tehran has always supported territorial integrity of all regional countries, particularly Syria. “We have supported and will continue to support Syria in its battle against terrorism,” he said, in reference to Syrian insurgent groups that Damascus and Tehran consider terrorist organizations.

On Turkey’s support to Syrian insurgent groups in the north, Mekdad said: “It is not permissible for the Turkish occupation of Syrian lands to continue to support terrorist organizations in northern Syria.”

Syria not Ready for Refugees to Return from Jordan, Says Senior UNHCR Official

Conditions in Syria are not suitable for the return of refugees, 13 years into the country’s civil war, a senior UN humanitarian official has told The National.

“Our assessment continues to be right now that the conditions for us to promote returns actively are not yet met,” Dominik Bartsch, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operations in Jordan, said in an exclusive interview on Sunday.

The issue of Syrian refugees remains central to politics in both Europe and the Middle East.

Last month, eight European countries – Austria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland – called for the conditions in Syria to be reassessed so that refugees may choose to return voluntarily.

Their statement was a challenge to the larger European powers, led by Germany, who more strongly advocated for refugees in Europe and are less willing to accommodate Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

Mr Bartsch said the political moves in Europe may create “hope for renewed dialogue” with Damascus, and “may leave a situation where conditions for potential return of refugees in the future will be improved to an extent that we can actively support such a return.”

SDF kills 5 ISIS militants in Deir-ez-Zor

North Press reported that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Tuesday the killing of five militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the arrest of two others in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate in eastern Syria.

The Anti-Terrorism Units (YAT) of the SDF, with the support of the U.S.-led Global Coalition forces, raided the hideouts of an ISIS sleeper cell in the town of al-Dahla, east of Deir-ez-Zor, the SDF Media Center said.

During the raid, clashes broke out between the two parties that resulted in the killing of five ISIS militants and the arrest of two others, the Media Center reported.

The cell was involved in the recent attacks and bombings that targeted the SDF in Deir-ez-Zor, according to the SDF.

The SDF added that its forces managed on Monday to thwart a VBIED attack by ISIS militants in the town of al-Ozba, east of Deir-ez-Zor.

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