Improvements in Syrian-Turkish relations have led Damascus and Ankara to plan a series of official exchange visits between their presidents. The most recent was Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s May 15 visit to the Syrian capital for three days, where he and a large political and economic delegation met with President Bashar Al-Assad and other key officials.
Bilateral relations between the two countries have continued to develop ever since the Adana political settlement in 1998 that narrowly averted a military conflict between them.
On May 15, President Al-Assad described Syria’s relations with Turkey as brotherly and going beyond mere protocol. During the inauguration of the Syrian-Turkish Business Forum held in Damascus to increase economic cooperation, commercial trade and joint investments, Al-Assad, standing next to his Turkish counterpart, said that Syria and Turkey constitute an important link between Asia, Europe and the Arab world.
President Gul responded, "Syria and Turkey are linked in many ways. Perhaps the most important factor is our geographic location. It follows that commercial and economic activities must be further developed. Given the joint political will for such development, we would like to achieve greater cooperation and more opportunities for joint economic ventures."
The drive for more meaningful Syrian-Turkish cooperation began in January 2003 when Gul visited Syria for the first time as foreign minister of Turkey. Since then, 27 bilateral agreements covering a broad range of fields that govern relations between Damascus and Ankara have been concluded. Among the most important of them are free trade zones and oil and gas treaties. Other agreements serve to encourage investment, avoid double taxation and prevent tax evasion. Yet another treaty established the Syrian-Turkish Business Council.
Official talks between Al-Assad and Gul also covered peace negotiations with Israel. The Turkish president expressed his country's readiness to resume its role as mediator between Syria and Israel, but Al-Assad declared that no date had been set for the resumption of such indirect peace negotiations. He stated, "When a willing partner comes to us, we can talk about a date for peace negotiations." He added, however, that, "Syria will continue discussions with Turkey and other countries on this issue, as peace is a strategic objective."
Sources: BBC / Al-Riyadh / Syria News