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Turkey's Hypocritical Threat Against Syria over Ancient Grave

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:00 AM

Turkey's Hypocritical Threat
Against Syria over Ancient Grave

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's threat to retaliate against
anyone in Syria who dares to damage the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather
of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, is the latest manifestation of
the Turkish government's utter hypocrisy.
Here is a country that has committed genocide against millions of its
Christian subjects (Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks), confiscated their
possessions, occupied their lands, destroyed thousands of churches,
cemeteries and cultural monuments, and yet has the audacity to warn Syrians
before any damage is done to an ancient Ottoman grave!
While the tomb of every human being must be protected and treated with
respect, Davutoglu's threat is a flimsy excuse to interfere in internal
Syrian affairs. Ironically, Suleyman Shah's grave is located in an area not
controlled by the Syrian government, but by al-Qaida Jihadists and other
rebel groups who have been aided and armed by Turkey to topple Pres. Bashar
al-Assad's regime. The al-Qaida fighters, who have been clashing with other
anti-Assad factions in the region where the Ottoman tomb is located, are
the ones destroying graves, since radical Islamists believe that the
veneration of tombs is idolatrous.
Turkey considers the plot of land in Syria where Suleyman Shah's grave is
situated to be sovereign Turkish territory based on the 1921 Treaty of
Ankara signed between Turkey and France, which was occupying Syria at that
time. According to that agreement, Turkey had the right to station guards
and hoist its flag at that site. Ever since 1921, two dozen Turkish
soldiers have been guarding the tomb around the clock.
Article 9 of the Ankara Treaty allocated to Turkey around 80,000 square
feet of Syrian territory, 60 miles south of the Syrian-Turkish border. When
the area around the tomb was flooded in 1974 by the newly-built Lake Assad,
the grave was moved to a new location, 20 miles from the Turkish frontier.
Despite the ongoing hostilities in Syria, Turkey has continued to maintain
a contingent of its soldiers at the tomb.
In return for giving Turkey territorial rights over this ancient site,
France obtained several economic concessions, including the right to have
French companies manage the railroad traffic in parts of Turkey and exploit
iron, chrome and silver mines for the next 99 years. This questionable
trade-off may not be legal under international law, since a colonial power
is bartering with someone else's territory!
The 1921 Treaty also established "a special administrative regime" for
Turks living in the district of Alexandretta, which was Syrian territory
under the French mandate. In 1939, Alexandretta was completely severed from
Syria and officially ceded to Turkey as the Hatay Province. After its
independence from France in 1946, the Syrian government acknowledged
Turkish sovereignty over the land where Suleyman Shah's grave is located,
but never accepted the give-away of Alexandretta to Turkey.
In a press conference held in Van last Friday, Foreign Minister Davutoglu
warned that any attack on the Ottoman-era tomb in Syria "from the [Syrian]
regime, radical groups or anyone else would be subject to retaliation from
Turkey. In defending its sovereign territory, Turkey will take all
necessary measures without any hesitation.... At the present time, there is
no question of any intrusion targeting our territory [the tomb in Syria]
and our soldiers, but we stand ready to take whatever steps needed in the
event of a threat. The Turkish public need have no doubt in this regard."
Meanwhile, officials from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, General Staff, and
National Intelligence Organization (MIT) met on March 13 to discuss the
security of the Shah's grave. Although Davutoglu did not specify what
measures Turkey would take, the Turkish media speculated that it might send
additional troops to guard their revered site.
In my view, Davutoglu's threat is simply an exercise in saber-rattling
against Syria in order to draw the Turkish public's attention away from
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent scandalous and possibly
criminal behavior, on the eve of the March 30 municipal elections in Turkey.


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