Syrian president begins historic visit to Turkey with aim to improve ties
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, accompanied by his wife Asma, began his first state-visit to Turkey on Tuesday, which is to last three days. Assad, the first Syrian head of state to visit Turkey since Syria became independent in 1946, was to meet with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials.
Prior to his visit, the Syrian leader, in an interview to CNN-Turk, said he was looking to improve economic cooperation with Ankara.
"I do not want to confine Turkish-Syrian relations to the national boundaries of the two countries", he said.
On these relations, President Assad said ties between the two neighboring countries are back to normal. "We must view [Syrian-Turkish ties] regionally and, perhaps later on, internationally. There is a role that could be [played]within the Islamic group or broader than that.
"No matter how we define our relations - a strategic partnership, alliance, brotherhood, or whatever - we have doors wide open ahead of us to achieve our objectives and, for me, our cooperation is super," Assad said, in the interview conducted last week and aired Monday.
"The important issue lies in the content. Do we feel that the dangers are one? Do we feel that the popular feelings are one? Yes, we do feel such a thing."
Turkey's Ambassador to Syria, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, described Assad's visit a "turning point," and said in remarks published earlier this week that Turkey and Syria consider preserving Iraq's territorial integrity and independence a "substantial issue."
The envoy said the visit would result in the signing of two agreements - one to protect and encourage mutual investments and the other to avoid double taxation. A
tourist protocol will also be signed during the visit.
"President Sezer’s initiative to visit Syria and to offer condolences on the death of [late] president Hafez al-Assad in 2000 was an object of appreciation in Syria and made the door wide open to develop bilateral relations,” Assad told CNN-Turk.
The Syrian President said, "So long as we make further steps, economic relations [can] become better."
The Syrian leader said his country and Turkey certainly need each other. "We feel such need as the Turkish officials do, and I think that both peoples feel the same need."
On the issue of Syrian-Turkish borders and if they are borders of peace, the President said, "Now they are peace borders. But when interests are realized and interrelated on all levels, citizens will no more pass borders, and then we can look at each other in a broader way, which we seek."
On Israel's dissatisfaction over Syrian-Turkish relations, the President said, "Since the relationship has not in the past and in the present come through Israel, this means nothing for us whether [Israel] is satisfied or not."
With regards to the issue of water, Assad said, "It is natural and certain that each country aspires to have more water than the other. We live in an area which suffers a problem of water in general. But, I cannot regard this issue as a real problem between Syria and Turkey. The water issue governed international laws and humanitarian relations, and when we improve the relations..., we will see that the interest is one even in the issue of water."
Regarding Damascus' stand towards the situation in Iraq and proposals on a federation, Assad said, "Of course, any state of division in Iraq will not only be reflected on Iraq and Turkey, it will be reflected on all neighbors. It is natural to be anxious over any state of division whether it was in the north, in the center or in the south. The state is one."
He added, "This is a red line for all states of the region, particularly those neighboring Iraq."
"Without Iraq’s unity there will be no stability neither for Iraq nor to our countries if they remained following the division of Iraq."
On Damascus' ties with Washington, Assad said, that "Syria has always been trying to create a state of stability in these relations [with the US] but the Israeli factor has always been affecting negatively these relations, ...generally there are no disagreements, but when we talk about the Israeli issue, disagreements emerge and you know the strength of the Israeli lobby in the US."
On Syria's stance towards Turkey's joining the European Union, President Bashar said Syria supports this positive step. "For us in Syria, the EU will be directly at our northern borders. This is something positive because we in the future will be partners of the Union," President Bashar concluded. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)