Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has long said he could reconsider ties with Al Assad. Image Credit: Reuters file

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he might invite his Syrian counterpart Bashar Al Assad to Turkey “at any moment”, in a sign of reconciliation after the 2011 war broke ties between Ankara and Damascus.

“We may send an invitation (to Assad) at any moment,” Erdogan told journalists aboard a plane from Berlin where he watched Euro 2024, the official Anadolu news agency and other media reported.

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Turkey originally aimed to topple Al Assad’s regime when the Syrian conflict erupted with the violent suppression of peaceful protesters in 2011.

But after backing various insurgent groups, Ankara has more recently shifted focus to preventing what Erdogan in 2019 dubbed a “terror corridor” from opening up in northern Syria.

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Erdogan has long said he could reconsider ties with Al Assad.

Speaking to journalists, he said some leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested a meeting with Al Assad in Turkey.

“Now we have come to such a point that as soon as Bashar Al Assad takes a step towards improving relations with Turkey, we will show him the same approach,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s comments come after tensions have mounted over the past week against Syrian refugees in Turkey, with a mob attacking properties and vehicles owned by Syrians in central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

Turkey, which hosts some 3.2 million Syrian refugees according to UN data, has been shaken several times by bouts of xenophobic violence in recent years, often triggered by rumours spreading on social media and instant messaging applications.

The fate of Syrian refugees is also a burning issue in Turkish politics, with Erdogan’s opponents in last year’s election promising to send them back to Syria.