25 Turkish Tanks Hold Exercises near Syrian Border

Reuters03.08.2012 Turkey
25 Turkish Tanks Hold Exercises near Syrian Border

25 Turkish Tanks Hold Exercises near Syrian Border

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The Turkish Army staged tank exercises near the Syrian border on Wednesday, Turkish officials said, in a move highlighting Ankara's unease about security on the frontier.

The exercises were held after a series of Turkish military deployments to the area prompted by the spiraling violence in the 17-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There is no indication Turkish Forces will cross the border.

About 25 tanks took part in the exercises in the Nusaybin district of Mardin Province, just 2 km (1 mile) from the Syrian border, state-run Anatolian news agency said, quoting Mardin's Governor as saying they would last several days.

Nusaybin District Official Murat Girgin, contacted by telephone, confirmed military exercises were underway in the area. He declined to elaborate.

The maneuvers, overseen by local Commanders, were conducted by the Mardin 70th Mechanized Brigade, Dogan news agency said.

The Syrian city of Qamishli is immediately across the border from Nusaybin. Ankara is concerned about reports that a Kurdish group linked to militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is exerting control in Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

NATO-member Turkey has warned any attack emanating from a PKK presence in northern Syria could give it reason to intervene. Ankara has repeatedly bombed and sent troops into parts of Kurdish-run northern Iraq where the PKK has camps.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu raised the issue of the Syrian government's loss of control over territory with Massoud Barzani, President of Iraq's Kurdistan government, on Wednesday, the Ministry said in a statement.

“Any attempt to exploit the power vacuum by any violent group or organization will be considered as a common threat, which should be jointly addressed. The new Syria should be free of any terrorist and extremist group or organization.”

Ankara has often pressured northern Iraq's Kurdish rulers to take steps against the PKK.

The Syrian conflict was set to feature highly in the four-day meeting of Turkey's Supreme Military Council, which started on Wednesday. The Council, chaired by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and bringing together Senior Commanders, meets twice yearly to discuss army promotions, retirements and expulsions.

The military maneuvers coincided with intense clashes between the military and the PKK further east around the town of Semdinli, on the mountainous border with Iraq and Iran. Media reports said up to 40 PKK militants had been killed in fighting there over the past week.

In a separate clash in Diyarbakir Province, two soldiers were killed in a firefight with PKK fighters on Wednesday near the town of Lice, security sources said.


Source: Reuters



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