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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Turkey defies US with Syria visit
Turkish President Sezer with Syrian President Assad
Sezer met Assad at the Shaab palace in Damascus
Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer has begun a two-day visit to Syria aimed at strengthening bilateral ties.

Before his departure, Mr Sezer said he hoped the visit would help contribute to peace and stability in the region.

The Syrian foreign minister as well as hundreds of flag-waving Syrian and Turkish children were on hand to welcome Mr Sezer at Damascus airport.

His visit comes despite US calls for Ankara to join international pressure on Syria to pull troops out of Lebanon.

Turkey supports the withdrawal, but believes good neighbourly ties are the best way to ease regional conflict.

Improved ties

Turkish-US relations have cooled due to differences over Iraq and correspondents say a recent statement about Syria by the US ambassador in Ankara was meant as a warning to drop plans to visit Damascus.

Ambassador Eric Edel said in March: "The international community is completely unanimous on [a Syrian withdrawal]. We hope Turkey will join the international community."

The growing influence of Kurds in Iraq and the influence it may have on the large Kurdish minorities in Syria and Turkey are also a likely subject for discussion, reports say.

Relations between Syria and Turkey have greatly improved since 1998 when they came to the brink of war over Turkish accusations that Damascus was sheltering separatist Kurdish militants Ankara blamed for attacks on its forces.


SEE ALSO:
Syria at reform crossroads
01 Apr 05 |  Middle East
Springtime for Mid-East democracy?
11 Mar 05 |  Middle East
Syria to start final withdrawal
07 Apr 05 |  Middle East
Timeline: Turkey
09 Mar 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Syria
04 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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