Relations between Turkey–Syria

Relations between Turkey and Syria were thorny before 1998. Contentious issues included Syria’s claims over Hatay, disputes over water and Syria’s support to PKK, the terrorist organization.

The signing of Adana Agreement on 20 October 1998 marked a turning point in relations between Turkey and Syria. The agreement established cooperation against PKK terrorist organization and relations subsequently flourished in all aspects, i.e. political, economic, security and cultural.

The importance attached to improving and expanding relations to the best possible extent, both by Turkish leaders and the Syrian President Assad, who took office in 2000, played a crucial role in furthering relations between the two countries. Accordingly, the number of official visits increased steadfastly at various levels, including Presidential, Prime Ministerial and Foreign Ministerial levels.

The signing of Joint Political Declaration on establishing High Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) during President Assad’s visit to Turkey in September 2009 was another milestone in Turkish Syrian relations.

The High Level Strategic Cooperation Council convened for the first time at ministerial level on 13 October 2009 in Gaziantep and Aleppo. Over 10 ministers from the two countries participated in the meeting. It was followed by High Level Strategic Cooperation Council meeting at prime ministerial level on 23 December in Damascus.

A Visa Exemption Agreement was signed on Turkish-Syrian border in October 2009 within the scope of HLSCC meeting at Ministers Level. Shortly after, a total of 50 agreements and MoU’s were signed in Damascus at the HLSCC meeting in December 2009. Those agreements and MoU’s emphasized cooperation on various areas, i.e. political, security, commerce, culture, health, agriculture, environment, transportation, education and water.

HLSCC’s subsequent meetings took place at ministerial and prime ministerial levels respectively, on 2-3 October 2010 in Latakia and on 20-21 December 2010 in Ankara. The parties signed 13 additional agreements within the scope of those meetings.

The thriving relations between Turkey and Syria contributed positively to bilateral trade, investment and tourism. The entry into force of the Free Trade Agreement on 1 January 2007 led to a swift increase in trade volume between Turkey and Syria. As a result, the trade volume rose from 796 million USD in 2006 to 2.5 billion USD in 2010. Turkey’s imports from Syria is 663 million USD and Turkey’s exports to Syria is 1.85 billion USD in 2010.

The Turkish investment in Syria has also increased considerably as well as the number of tourists travelling across Turkish and Syrian borders. The touristic visits between the two countries more than doubled especially after the Visa Exemption Agreement was signed in 2009.

A Quadripartite High Level Strategic Cooperation Council was established among Turkey, Syria, Jordon and Lebanon, at a meeting at Foreign Ministers level, which took place in Istanbul on 10 June 2010. This Council aims to create a zone of free movement of goods and persons among those four countries.

On every suitable occasion, Turkey urged the Syrian Administration to reform and to pay attention to the democratic needs of the Syrian people.

The recent developments in Syria carry the potential to bring about far-reaching ramifications for peace and stability in the Middle East. Turkey sincerely wishes that the events evolve in a better direction and thus encourages the Syrian authorities to undertake a swift reform program that addresses the needs and demands of Syrian citizens. Turkey has also made it clear that she is ready to provide whatever contribution and support needed in the reform process.