Global Insider: Turkey-Syria Relations

The Turkish government has responded to Syria's ongoing crackdown against protesters by engaging with Bashir al-Assad's government and urging it to commit to reforms. In an email interview, Malik Mufti, a professor of international relations at Tufts University, discussed Turkish-Syrian relations.

WPR: What is the recent history of Turkish-Syrian relations?

Malik Mufti: Bilateral relations were poor during the 1990s because of Turkey's diversion of Euphrates waters and Syria's sponsorship of the Kurdish PKK rebellion. A Turkish ultimatum in 1998 induced Syria to cut off the PKK, however, and the enhancement of Iraqi Kurdistan's autonomy following the 2003 U.S. invasion led to a further convergence of views, with the Syrians now concerned about agitation in their own Kurdish territories. This convergence in turn laid the groundwork for a broader rapprochement on an array of issues, ranging from security cooperation to increased trade. The rapprochement peaked after Israel's attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, which ended Turkish mediation efforts between Syria and Israel and caused a sharp deterioration in Turkish-Israeli ties. Since then, Turkey and Syria have signed landmark agreements on strategic cooperation, visa-free travel and free trade.

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