Turkey, Syria to hold joint military exercises

H�rriyet (Link) - AFP (April 26, 2010)

Turkish and Syrian soldiers will hold joint drills this week to enhance border security cooperation, the Turkish General Staff said Monday.

The announcement came as yet another sign of the flourishing ties between the two neighbors who came to the brink of war in the late 1990s after decades of hostility.

The three-day exercises, starting Tuesday at two border outposts on the Turkish side of the frontier, aim to �boost cooperation and confidence between the land forces of the two countries and raise border units� level of training and ability to work together,� the statement said.

Turkey has significantly improved ties with Syria in recent years, much to the annoyance of Israel, its once close ally with whom relations have badly deteriorated.

The Syrian and Turkish militaries held joint exercises in April last year, stirring criticism from Tel Aviv.

In 1998, Ankara threatened military action if Damascus continued to shelter Abdullah �calan, leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers� Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Tensions eased after Syria expelled �calan, paving the way for improved ties.