Former foes Turkey and Syria seek to advance cooperation
Former arch-foes Turkey and Syria concluded two days of talks here on Thursday, August 2, aimed at further improving recently thawed bilateral ties and evaluating developments in the conflict-torn Middle East.
The two neighbors had come to the brink of war three years ago when Turkey threatened military action if Syria continued to shelter Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and his militants.
Tension eased in October 1998 when Ocalan left Damascus, his long-time safe haven, and Syria signed a security cooperation accord with Turkey, opening the door to a thaw in relations and an exchange of visits.
During meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, Syrian diplomats, led by Deputy Foreign Minister SIba NassIr, discussed with their Turkish counterparts the text of a so-called "friendship and cooperation document" outlining principles to guide bilateral cooperation.
NassIr said the document was to be formally adopted following a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to Damascus, expected to take place in a few months, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.
Ankara reportedly wants Damascus to publicly declare that it has no claims over the southern Turkish province of Hatay, often shown as a Syrian territory on Syrian maps. Asked whether the issue would be a part of the planned document, Nasser said "the document will include only the process of bilateral cooperation."
In a February interview with a Turkish television channel, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Al-Shara had said that "maybe several years" were needed to settle the problem. Turkish diplomats told AFP the talks concentrated on improving bilateral cooperation in the security, economic and cultural realms.
The two sides also discussed escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians as well as suggestions to ease the United Nations sanctions on Iraq, Nassir said.
The parties made no statement on another major bilateral dispute, the sharing of the waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris, which originate in Turkey and flow down to drought-stricken Syria and Iraq. Damascus and Baghdad accuse Turkey of monopolizing the waters by building dams over the rivers. The Syrian delegation was scheduled to leave Turkey on Friday. ― (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)
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