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Wednesday, October 7, 1998 Published at 01:07 GMT 02:07 UK

World: Middle East

Turkey makes 'demands' of Syria

Presidents Mubarak and Demirel: three hours of talks

Chris Morris reports from Ankara
Turkey has presented a list of demands which it says Syria must meet in order to defuse the growing tension between the two countries.

The demands were outlined during three hours of talks between the Turkish President, Suleiman Demirel, and the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, who is mediating in the crisis.

Turkish officials say they have intelligence information proving that Syria actively supports Kurdish separatist rebels.

[ image: Turkey has called on Syria to hand over PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan]
Turkey has called on Syria to hand over PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan
Earlier, the Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said he was giving Syria a final warning, and demanded that Syria hand over Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish separatist PKK, who is believed to be in Damascus.

Turkey also wants PKK camps closed down, and has called upon Syria to respect Turkey's borders and give up claims to Turkish territory.

Diplomatic efforts

On Sunday, Mr Mubarak was in Damascus for talks with Syria's President Hafez al Assad.

Amr Mousa: "All grievances... could be put on the table and discussed"
Following that meeting, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa, expressed some optimism, saying: "It is not too difficult for a diplomatic solution and does not need escalation or military action."

Iran has also offered to diffuse the tension. The Iranian Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, said that Turkey should "maintain self-restraint because military threats will not solve anything."

US concerned but 'understanding'

The United States has expressed its concern over the situation.

The State Department spokesman James Rubin said the US had been in touch with both Turkey and Syria and had been "urging restraint".

He said: "Clearly the fact that the PKK has an ability to operate from some of these areas inside Syria and other places is a major problem."

He said the US had in the past expressed understanding for Turkey's position on the matter, but added: "Let me be clear: we very much don't want this to go to the next step because in this case ... it would be a grave risk of a much larger conflict."

Arab countries support Syria

[ image: Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has sought to reassure the Arab world]
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has sought to reassure the Arab world
Many Arab nations have expressed their support for Syria, but have also called on both counties to resolve their row peacefully.

Among the Arab countries reported to side with Syria are Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.

The Arab League has accused Israel of being behind the crisis.

General Ahmed Bin Hilli, Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League, said: "Israel ... benefits from such a tense atmosphere in implementing its aggressive policies in Arab land and stalling peace."

A recent agreement of military co-operation between Turkey and Israel has angered many Arab states that feel threatened despite Turkish assurances.

Turkish-Syrian relations have never been easy, but in the past week Ankara raised the stakes.

Syria has repeatedly denied helping the PKK or providing a refuge for its leader.

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