Former Foes Turkey, Syria Agree to Draft Agreement on Better Ties
Turkey and Syria agreed Friday to draw up a set of principles that will pave the way for cooperation in many fields between the two countries after years of hostility, a Turkish presidential spokesman said.
In a meeting with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, visiting Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam conveyed the desire of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad "to accelerate efforts to improve and strengthen bilateral relations in all areas," Tacan Ildem said.
"This is actually the desire of both parties," he added.
The two sides agreed to sign "in the short term" a declaration of principles that will lay the foundations for a comprehensive agreement to further improve bilateral ties, Ildem said.
Sezer invited Assad to visit Turkey and expressed hope that the accord will be ready for signing during the trip, the spokesman added.
Khaddam's visit was the highest-level visit from Damascus since the two countries came on the brink of war in autumn 1998 when Turkey threatened to take military action if Syria continued to shelter Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and his Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
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 for a thaw in relations.
In a gesture of good will, Sezer attended the funeral of former Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad in June.
Despite the relative improvement, Ankara and Damascus remain at loggerheads over sharing the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris, which originate in Turkey and flow down to Syria and Iraq.
Asked whether the declaration of principles would include provisions on the water dispute, Ildem said: "I guess Syria's readiness to sign the declaration is a sufficient answer."
Khaddam, who had arrived in Ankara on Thursday, also met with Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and his deputy Devlet Bahceli.
"The outcome of the meetings went beyond our highest expectations," an aide to Ecevit told AFP.
Khaddam was scheduled to have talks with Parliament Speaker Omer Izgi later in the day before wrapping up his visit -- ANKARA (AFP)
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