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 Turkey 'sends missile batteries to Syria border', Kurdish PKK flag at Syrian Kurdistan border

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Turkey 'sends missile batteries to Syria border', Kurdish PKK flag at Syrian Kurdistan border  28.6.2012  

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Kurdish PKK rebels flag at Syrian Kurdistan border. Photo: DHA
June 28, 2012

ANKARA,— Turkey has sent missile batteries, tanks and troops to the border with Syria as a "security corridor", almost a week after the Syrian downing of a Turkish military jet, media reports said Thursday.

There was no official confirmation of the military moves, which came after Turkey warned branded its former ally as a "clear and imminent threat" following Friday's attack over the Mediterranean.

About 30 military vehicles accompanied by a truck towing missile batteries left a base in the southeastern province of Hatay for the border, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, the Milliyet newspaper reported.

Footage aired on state-run TRT showed dozens of military vehicles loaded with army personnel, reportedly on the move for the volatile border, in a convoy that included low altitude air defence systems and anti-aircraft guns.

Taraf newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said the deployments represented the establishment of a "de facto security corridor" on Turkish soil.

The moves follow the downing of a Turkish Phantom F-4 jet by Syrian fire over the eastern Mediterranean on Friday in what Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was a "heinous attack".

Erdogan vowed Tuesday that any hostile Syrian movement towards the border would be "treated as a military target," hinting at a harsher retaliation for any future border violations.

Turkey has described Syria as a "a clear and imminent threat" but Erdogan said Wednesday that Ankara had no intention of attacking its neighbour.

In a separate deployment, several trucks loaded with armoured tanks were sent to the frontier in the province of Sanliurfa after a Kurdish PKK rebel flag was hoisted in a Syrian village, in Syrian Kurdistan (Western Kurdistan) just across the border, provincial media said.

The flag, which reportedly belonged to a Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was taken down early Thursday, the Anatolia news agency said, citing local witnesses.

Turkish officials have frequently accused Syria of aiding the PKK after Ankara's ties with Damascus broke down, saying many recent attacks targeting Turkish security forces were carried out by rebels infiltrating from Syria.

Turkish media have interpreted the mass deployments both as a means to intimidate Kurdish rebels, whose activities have increased in recent months, and as a strategy to challenge Syria, which shares a 910-kilometre border with Turkey.

Turkey's powerful army has not confirmed the deployments, but earlier dismissed reports that it was "on alert" after the downing of the jet, whose two crew members are still missing.

Erdogan was once a friend and ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but relations have broken down since the revolt erupted in Syria last year, sending more than 33,000 refugees across the border into Turkey.

The PKK has several times proposed peaceful solutions regarding Kurdish problem, Turkey has always refused saying that it will not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous Kurdish region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million. A large Turkey's Kurdish community openly sympathise with the Kurdish PKK rebels.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations.

The PKK is considered as 'terrorist' organization by Ankara and U.S. The PKK continues to be on the blacklist list in EU despite court ruling which overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union's terror list. 

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