Middle East

Turkish army stages military drill at Syria frontier: report

A Turkish military convoy stops for a moment while travelling to the border between Turkey and Syria, near the southeastern Turkish city of Kilis July 30, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA: The Turkish army on Tuesday staged a new military drill near its border with Syria, in the throes of an uprising that has led to deteriorating relations between the neighbouring nations, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Turkish tanks accompanied by advanced armoured personnel carriers and tactical missile-launching platforms were deployed at the Oncupinar crossing in southern Kilis province for the drill, the report said.

Tuesday's drill follows several military exercises at the Syrian border after the government warned that it would pursue Kurdish rebels across the frontier.

Turkish media has interpreted the drills as a show of force against Damascus, which Ankara accuses of giving a freehand to Syrian Kurds allowing them to launch cross-border attacks in Turkey.

The relationship between Ankara and Damascus hit an all-time low after a Turkish Phantom jet was brought down by Syrian fire on June 22, killing its two-men crew and leading Ankara to brand Damascus as a "hostile" opponent.

The Syrian regime counters the Turkish accusations with claims that Turkey is supporting "terrorists" to bring down the regime, referring to the Free Syrian Army of defecting soldiers, currently based on Turkish soil near the border.

The jet shoot-down, still under investigation, triggered a massive military build-up all along the 900-kilometre (550-mile) border, shuttered by large numbers of Turkish tanks, weapons, missile batteries and troops.

Turkey is currently home to more than 60,000 Syrian refugees in several camps along the border where rebel forces made up of army defectors are also based.





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