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 Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian Kurdistan border

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Turkish military convoys deploy at Syrian Kurdistan border  30.7.2012  

Turkey sent a convoy of about 20 vehicles carrying troops, missile batteries and armoured vehicles to the border with Syria on Monday. Photo: AFP
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July 30, 2012

KILIS, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — Turkey sent at least four convoys of vehicles carrying troops and missile batteries to the border with Syrian Kurdistan on Monday amid growing concern in Turkey about security on its southern frontier, witnesses and news reports said.

It was the latest in a series of deployments in the region in recent weeks. There is no indication that Turkish forces will cross the border, and the troop movements may be strictly precautionary in the face of spiralling violence in Syria.

Two separate convoys of about 30 vehicles left a base in Gaziantep province to head south to Kilis and were now stationed along a fenced-off section on the border with Syria, witnesses said.

"This is part of a training exercise," said a high-ranking officer in a second convoy of nine vehicles with armoured personnel carriers, tanks and other military vehicles.
A second officer in the same convoy said the troops would remain on the Turkish side of the border.

The state-run Anatolian news agency said ammunition and military vehicles were brought by rail to the town of Islahiye in Gaziantep from the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.

In a fourth troop movement, military vehicles, including tanks, were moved to Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, further east from Kilis and Gaziantep, and were now stationed at the Syrian border, Anatolian said.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has conducted in recent months a number of troop deployments along its 911-km (566 mile) border with Syria, which is in the throes of an insurgency seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a former Assad ally, is now among his most vocal critics, calling for him to step down from power amid the 16-month uprising that has killed thousands of Syrian civilians.

Tensions between the neighbours hit a peak on June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance aircraft, killing two pilots.
Kilis houses a major refugee centre for Syrians fleeing the violence at home. About 44,000 refugees are in Turkey.

Erdogan last week warned the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed militant group that has launched attacks inside Turkey, against setting up camps inside Syrian Kurdistan, (western Kurdistan) in northern Syria.

That area, which has a large Kurdish population, has been spared much of the violence seen elsewhere in Syria, but Turkey is worried the PKK could exert influence there amid a power vacuum and threaten Turkish security at the border.

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.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous 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.

The PKK wants constitutional recognition for the Kurds, regional self-governance and Kurdish-language education in schools.

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, 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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