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Damascus: Turkey breaching 1998 agreement by ‘occupying Syrian territory’

This file picture shows a view of the building of Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the capital Damascus. (Photo by SANA)

The Syrian government has strongly dismissed recent remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan concerning a 1998 agreement between Ankara and Damascus, saying Turkey has been breaching the pact by supporting “terrorism” and occupying Syrian territory since 2011.

“Syria confirms that it is in compliance with the Adana Interstate Agreement on Combating Terrorism in all its forms and all agreements related to it, but the Turkish regime has been violating the agreement since 2011 up to now by sponsoring and supporting terrorism, training militants and making it easier for them to go to [the] Syrian Arab Republic, or through the occupation of Syrian territories with terrorist groups it controls … or directly with the help of the Turkish Armed Forces,” an unnamed source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said on Saturday.

The source then called on the Ankara government to activate the 1998 agreement and leave the control of border territories to Damascus as they were before the outbreak of foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria nearly eight years ago.

The Adana agreement was signed between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998. It clearly stated that the Damascus government would not allow any activities of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group on Syrian soil, and would block any terror activities that could threaten Turkey's sovereignty.

Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would not hesitate to form a safe zone in northern Syria by itself even if its allies broke their promises on the issue.

“We do not need the invitation of anyone [to enter Syria],” the Turkish leader said, referring to the Adana deal.

Ankara has been threatening for months to launch an offensive in northern Syria against the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the PKK, which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, namely “Euphrates Shield” in August 2016 and “Olive Branch” in January 2018 with the declared aim of eradicating the presence of Kurdish militants and Daesh terrorists near Turkey’s borders.

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