Famine is possibly underway in northern Gaza despite recent aid efforts, a new report warns

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Syria announces no dialogue with Turkey before Ankara announces plans to withdraw troops

DAMASCUS: Syria’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that any dialogue between Syria and Turkey should only take place after Ankara announces it will withdraw its troops from all Syrian areas under its control.

Faisal Mekdad made the comments at a joint press conference with acting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, following Turkey’s threats in recent days to crack down on Kurdish-led authorities in northeastern Syria as they prepare to hold local elections next week.

Turkey has conducted three major cross-border operations in Syria since 2016 and controls some areas in the north. Ankara has been a main supporter of Syrian opposition fighters who have been trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the conflict began in March 2011.

Reconciliation efforts between Syria and Turkey have made no progress since early 2023, despite meetings between the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers in Moscow.

“The most important prerequisite for any Syrian-Turkish dialogue is that Ankara declares its willingness to withdraw from the areas it occupies,” said Mekdad. “We are not negotiating with those who occupy our country.”

Bagheri Kani said Tehran has always supported the territorial integrity of all countries in the region, especially Syria. “We have supported Syria in its fight against terrorism and will continue to do so,” he said, referring to Syrian insurgents whom Damascus and Tehran consider terrorist organizations.

Iran and Russia, Assad’s main backers involved in the Syrian conflict that has killed half a million people, have tried to mediate between Turkey and Syria in the past. Over the years, they have helped Syrian government forces take control of large parts of Syria.

Regarding the support of Syrian rebel groups in northern Syria, Mekdad said: “It is not permissible for the Turkish occupation of Syrian territories to continue supporting terrorist organizations in northern Syria.”

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara would not hesitate to crack down on Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria accused of having links to banned Kurdish militants if they go ahead with plans to hold local elections in the region on June 11.

Syrian media close to the government reported that Bagheri Kani met with leaders of Palestinian groups from Syria at the Iranian embassy in Damascus on Tuesday. No further details were given.

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