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Turkey: Syria
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > External Security Concerns > Syria


Several disputes make relations between Syria and Turkey uneasy. However, Syria's limited military potential and the alignment of Syrian forces on the Israeli front preclude any immediate threat along the 900-kilometer border between Turkey and Syria.

Syria has never abandoned its claim to the Turkish province of Hatay, which includes the city of Iskenderun. France, the mandatory power over Syria from 1920 to 1941, ceded the area to Turkey in 1939 after a disputed plebiscite, in violation of its League of Nations mandate.

Tensions with Syria are compounded by Turkey's control over distribution of the waters of the Euphrates River. Turkey's huge Southeast Anatolian Project, with its dams and hydroelectric plants, threatens to deplete Syria's water resources. In addition, Syria has a history of permitting hostile political movements -- Armenian, Marxist, and Kurdish -- to conduct anti-Turkish operations from Syrian-controlled territory in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. To a considerable degree, the issues of access to water and Syria's support for the Kurdish insurgency are linked. To the extent that Turkey attempts to accommodate Syria on water sharing, Syria limits its backing of the Kurds. In December 1993, the Syrian government took into custody the Kurdish rebel leader, Abdullah Ă–calan, in what was seen as an attempt to strengthen Syria's hand in water negotiations.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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