Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday that the current rapprochement between Syria and Turkey, under the auspices of Russia, should be aimed at ending the Turkish “occupation” of Syrian territory, the office of the Syrian president announced.

This is the first comment of the Syrian president on the recent meetings between Turkish and Syrian officials, after a break in relations of more than ten years.

The defense ministers of the two countries met in December, and a meeting of the heads of diplomacy is expected at the beginning of February.

It will be the highest-level meeting between the two countries since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.

Turkey is playing a major role in the war in Syria by supporting Assad’s opponents and sending troops to northern Syria. Russia is Assad’s main ally and is pushing for reconciliation with Ankara.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that he might meet with Assad after a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers.

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