Turkey and Syria agreed here Monday to enhance cooperation in natural gas and oil projects in a further sign of improving relations between the former foes, the Turkish energy ministry said.
At the end of a four-day visit, Syrian Petroleum Minister Maher Jamal and Turkish Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer signed a declaration pledging to cooperate in the search and development of gas and oil reserves in the two countries, the statement said.
A bilateral working group was to be set up to develop cooperation in that field.
The two sides also agreed to encourage Turkish private companies to participate in gas and oil projects in Syria and to explore opportunities to boost bilateral oil trade.
In the first 11 months of 2000, Turkey had imported 1.7 million tons of crude oil from Syria, whose oil sales amount to some 60 percent of its exports, the statement said.
The two ministers also discussed a pipeline project between Syria, Egypt and Lebanon to transport Egyptian and Syrian natural gas to regional countries, including Turkey, and then to unspecified European states.
Jamal's visit came as a further sign of rapprochement between Turkey and Syria. The two came to the brink of war in late 1998 when Turkey threatened to take 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 for a thaw in relations.
During a visit to Ankara last November by Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, the two sides agreed to outline a declaration of principles to guide them in a new period of friendship and cooperation. The document is still to be signed.
Despite the 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. – (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )