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Sunday, October 4, 1998 Published at 17:34 GMT 18:34 UK

Turkey-Syria row sparks region's fears

President Hosni Mubarak: Trying to calm tensions

As President Mubarak of Egypt tries to patch up the simmering row between Turkey and Syria, the sudden upsurge in tension has prompted expressions of concern in the region, as well as offers to help mediate. Some commentators identified Ankara's military cooperation with Israel as a major factor behind the dispute.

Iran: Ties with Israel to blame

"What has mainly exacerbated the serious bilateral differences is Ankara's enthusiasm for expanding its military and security relations with Israel," Iranian radio said in a commentary.

"Officials in Damascus consider this to be tantamount to the formation of a coalition against them, to say the least.

Israel: Involvement denied

Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhaq Mordekhay told Channel 2 Television that Israel was not involved in the tension between the two countries.

He said Israel had cut back on some of its routine activities along the border with Syria so as to preclude the "slightest suspicion of any Israeli involvement".

Jordan: Ready to help mediate

"Jordan is ready to employ all of its relations to serve the Arab interests," Information Minister Nasir Judah said, according to the Jordanian news agency, JNA.

He was responding to a question about Amman's readiness, if asked, to help mediate between Syria and Turkey.

Syria: 'Ankara triggered tension'

Syria said that it wanted to settle its differences with Turkey by diplomatic means "in an atmosphere of mutual trust".

Syrian television quoted an unnamed "responsible source" as saying that Ankara had "recently triggered a sudden escalation of tension in Syrian-Turkish relations".

Senior Turkish political and military officials had made "hostile statements against Syria despite all Syria's serious efforts throughout the past period to convince Turkey of Syria's genuine desire for dialogue in order to specify the points of disagreement and find satisfactory solutions to the pending problems between the two countries", the source said.

Syria had "persistently and continuously called on the Turkish side to resort to friendly dialogue", he added.

"However, the Turkish side continued to ignore these calls and to boycott these committees and hamper their work."

Turkey: 'Losing patience'

Turkish Defence Minister Ismet Sezgin said Syria had violated a 1992 agreement signed in Damascus on fighting organized crime and terrorism, adding that Syria had not heeded earlier warnings.

"We are saying that we have reached the limits of our patience and even exceeded it.

"In other words, we are saying that Syria should give up this kind of attitude," he said in remarks broadcast on Turkish television.

"I hope and wish that the Damascus government will take heed of our friendly warnings, give up its support of terrorism, which it has made their state policy and stop its hostile stands.

As an experienced statesman and politician, I wish and hope that this issue will be settled through diplomacy .

I would like to say that in the event that this issue cannot be resolved through diplomacy, it is only natural and legitimate and our right, duty and responsibility to take all the necessary measures," he said.

BBC Monitoring (, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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