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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 18:15 GMT
Turkey to clear mines on Syria border
By the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Istanbul

The Turkish army is to start mine clearance along the country's border with Syria.

Once mine clearance is completed, cotton will be planted on the land.

It is all a sign of growing friendship between two countries that were once very uneasy neighbours

The two countries are also close to signing an agreement on military cooperation.

Turkey's south-eastern border with Syria is its longest, running for more than 870 kilometres (545 miles).

It is not public knowledge how many mines were laid by Turkey on the border.

But the loss of good farm land is keenly felt.

Growing friendship

The Turkish military will not comment on the news - it rarely does.

Turkish Kurdish rebels of the PKK
Syria pledged to withdraw support from Kurdish rebels in 1998
But a local member of parliament has confirmed the plan to the BBC.

The army has asked for about $12m for the first stage of mine clearance.

The total could be as much as $36m.

There are 350,000 square metres of land which will be brought back into use and cotton worth about $50m a year will be planted there.

It is all a sign of growing friendship between two countries that were once very uneasy neighbours.

Turkish troops once massed on the border of Syria, threatening invasion in an attempt to halt Syrian support for Kurdish autonomy.

But now the two militaries will begin to exchange students once an agreement is signed in April, and joint maneouvres and cooperation in their defence industries are also promised.

See also:

26 Sep 00 | Europe
Row looms over Mid-East water
21 Oct 98 | Middle East
Turkey and Syria sign agreement
14 Mar 01 | Middle East
Arab leaders open joint power grid
06 Apr 01 | Europe
Greece, Turkey agree on mines ban
13 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Turkey
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Syria
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