Syrian Paper Says Assad Plans to Visit Turkey
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is planning a visit to neighboring Turkey, with which relations have always been delicate, the government daily Tishrin said Thursday.
The visit to Ankara by Syrian vice-president Abdel-Halim Khaddam Wednesday and Thursday "has given a new impetus to relations between the two neighbors in light of a planned visit to Turkey by the Syrian president," the paper said.
Praising the results of Khaddam's visit, Tishrin referred to a "sharing of points of view on several issues of common interest."
In statements published by the Syrian press at the end of his visit Saturday, Khaddam said "the interests of the two countries demand an improvement in relations," and announced the "imminent signing of an agreement of principles" on ties.
In a message sent by Khaddam to Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Syrian president referred to the desire of his country to prepare "as quickly as possible ... a declaration of principles" which should open the way to reaching an overall agreement on the differences between the two countries, a Turkish spokesman said in Ankara.
Damascus and Ankara have always had a sensitive relationship, one which worsened sharply in 1998, when the two neighbors were on the point of military conflict.
Turkey complained at the support given by Damascus to Kurdish rebels and their leader, Abdallah Ocalan, although an agreement signed in October 1998 has eased tension.
Another source of tension between the two has been the sharing of the water from the Euphrates river, which is of concern to Syria as it suffers from a serious water shortage.
Damascus insists on a "permanent" agreement on sharing the waters of the river, which rises in Turkey -- DAMASCUS (AFP)
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