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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La Turquie accentue ses pressions sur la Syrie

by Hassane Zerrouky

Turkey is stepping up pressure on Syria

Translated Monday 4 July 2011, by Emily Drummond and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Turkey is stepping up pressure on Syria

The deployment of Syrian troops at the Turkish border preventing dissidents from fleeing the repression could lead Ankara to take a harder political line with Damascus.

The appearance of tanks and Syrian infantry units on Saturday in the village of Khirbet al-Jozdan less than 1 km from the Turkish border has caused an influx of new refugees (1500) in the direction of Turkey and demonstrates the tension between Ankara and Damascus in the province of Hatay which has long been claimed by Damascus. Close to 12,000 Syrians have found refuge there after fleeing the repression.

Refugee camps, put up by the Turkish Red Cross 10 km from the Cilvegözü frontier post, welcome new arrivals every day following Turkey’s decision not to close its border to prevent Syrians from seeking refuge in Turkey. The situation has Ankara seriously concerned and is beginning to poison relations between the two countries, especially since the last speech from Bashar Al-Assad promising reforms left the Turkish leaders less than convinced.

“It is necessary that he (Assad) state loud and clear, "we are moving towards a pluralist system, we are going to organise democratic elections which conform to international norms,” the Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, declared. “It is very important that in practice concrete steps be taken. "In this context our links will continue,” believes the Turkish Secretary of State, Ahmet Dayutoglu. “Time has run out, we have given you plenty of time and you have done nothing. From now on, if international bodies decide to act, we will be on their side,” stressed Osman Bahadir Dinçer, from the International Strategic Research Organisation (USAK in Turkish), quoted by the AFP.

The AKP’s rise to power in 2002 has allowed Syria to emerge from the isolation in which the country found itself, particularly since the signing of a military defence agreement between Turkey and Israel, (which at the moment is practically suspended due to the situation in Gaza), concluded in 1996 under the right-wing nationalist government of Mesut Yilmaz. Since then, Ankara has become the main economic partner in the region for Damascus. Bilateral trading reached 2.3 billion dollars (1.4 billion pounds) in 2010, a 30% increase in relation to 2009. And that is without counting the numerous Turkish investment projects in Syria, estimated at a value of several billion dollars. In fact, with regard to its economic and military weight and its proximity to Syria, a country with which it shares a border 850 km long, Turkey could have been led to exercise this weight in order to force Damascus to radically shift position regarding its opposition.

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