Turkey Syria Tensions Continue as Egypt Urges Calm

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey said on Wednesday it was considering an Egyptian offer to forge a diplomatic solution to a crisis with Syria that has brought Ankara and Damascus close to armed conflict.

Turkey has threatened Syria with military action if it does not immediately end what Ankara says is its support for Kurds fighting in the mountains of southeast Turkey.

The United States and much of the Arab world have called for calm amid worries that the dispute may spin out of control and destroy the Middle East peace process.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held talks with Turkish leaders on Tuesday in a bid to end the crisis and then flew to Damascus with a list of Turkish deman’s.

Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz told a special session of parliament: "(President Hosni) Mubarak asked for a last chance for diplomacy. We said we would study that idea."

No details were available of Mubarak’s proposals.

"A dossier outlining Syria’s support for terrorism was given to Mr. Mubarak and our requests of Syria were clearly laid out," Yilmaz said.

A leading Syrian politician–however–told Reuters in Damascus that the Turkish list appeared to be unacceptable.

"The deman’s as I heard them from the media – and here I speak as head of the ASUP and not for the Syrian government–are impossible because Syria should not work as a policeman to protect Turkey’s borders," said Safwan Qoudsi–head of the Arab Socialist Union Party.

"These conditions…are aimed at justifying any aggressive actions the Turkish government might commit against Syria."

Turkey’s parliament adopted a resolution on the crisis on Wednesday–voting without dissent in a rare show of unity.

"Our view is that the Syrian administration should understand the seriousness of the situation and put an end to terrorist bases on its soil. If it does not do this–enduring the consequences will be unavoidable," the resolution said.

The Turkish press said Turkey had told Damascus to hand over exiled Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and end its support for the PKK.

Syria denies sheltering Ocalan–also known as Apo.

Turkish newspapers have been quick to take up the government’s hawkish tone.

"Mubarak was told to tell Syria to give us Ocalan or face the consequences," the Milliyet daily said. "Surrender Apo," the Sabah newspaper said in a banner headline.

Yilmaz issued a "last warning" to Syria on Tuesday and the army canceled all leave for troops on the 550-mile border with Turkey’s smaller Arab neighbor.

Reuters witnesses said there was no noticeable military build-up on the Turkish side of the border on Wednesday.

The PLO urged an end to Ankara’s threats against Syria and Iraq’s ruling Baath party newspaper urged Arab countries to take a firm stand against NATO member Turkey.

The Iraqi newspaper al-Thawra said Turkey was part of an anti-Arab alliance including "the Zionist entity (Israel)–America and Britain–who are conspiring and spying against the Arabs."

Turkey has recently developed wide military ties with Israel which have upset Iran and the Arabs.

The Jewish state says it is staying out of the latest row but Damascus sees an Israeli hand behind Turkey’s tough stance.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Tehran was talking to both Syria and Turkey to prevent a clash.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Necati Utkan deflected Arab criticism of Turke.

"This is not an Arab problem for us–not a problem between Turkey and Arab countries–it is bilateral problem between Turkey and Syria," he told a news conference.


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