Turks issue threat to invade Syria

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The Independent Online
TURKEY STEPPED up pressure against its two southern neighbours yesterday, by sending troops into northern Iraq and threatening to invade Syria. Ankara is accusing both countries of allowing Kurdish insurgents from Turkey to use them as safe havens.

In a rebuff to Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, who is on a peace mission to Syria and Turkey, Suleyman Demirel, the President of Turkey, said he was too busy to see the Egyptian leader yesterday but would meet him today in Ankara. Turkish television said: "A request by Mubarak for an immediate meeting was turned down."

"We are not just warning Syria, we are warning the entire world," President Demirel said. "They cannot protect [Kurdish] gangs with blood on their hands, bandits inside their borders and dispatch them into Turkey." Turkey is also to stage war-games on the Syrian border.

Farouq al-Shara, the Syrian Foreign Minister, said his government was mystified by the sudden escalation of allegations from Turkey that guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were based in Syria. The minister attributed the growing crisis to Turkey's developing military and political alliance with Israel.

The threat of a war between Turkey and Syria may also be a sign of growing instability in the Middle East, linked to the decline of US power in the region.

Laith Kubba, an Iraqi intellectual, said: "There is a power vacuum. The impact of the US administration's weakness is being felt locally, as countries try to improve their positions."

Turkey is also angry about legislation passed by the American Congress, offering $97m (pounds 59m) from the US Defense budget to opponents of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Kurds are the only group in Iraq with military organisations capable of using this equipment.

Ankara may be fearful that Iraqi Kurdistan is edging towards de facto independence, which would encourage Turkey's own Kurdish population to seek self-rule.

Both Syria and Iraq lend support to the PKK as a lever against Turkey. The Turkish army, the ultimate decision-maker in Turkish politics, is frustrated at its inability to suppress the 14-year-long Kurdish uprising in Eastern Turkey.

In Iraq, meanwhile, President Saddam Hussein is reported to have arrested two of his half-brothers, Watban and Sabawi.

t Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, arrives in Israel today in a final effort to arrange an Israeli withdrawal from 13 per cent of the West Bank under the terms of the Oslo accords. She needs to lay the ground work for a successful summit in Washington on 15 October at which an agreement would be signed.

It is the second time Mrs Albright has visited Israel since she became Secretary of State. Negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis have been dead-locked for 19 months.