Syria: Erdogan warns against attacks on Suleyman Shah tomb

Garrison of Turkish enclave near Aleppo could be at risk

08 August, 19:54

The mausoleum of Suleyman Shah manned by Turikish soldiers The mausoleum of Suleyman Shah manned by Turikish soldiers

(ANSAMed) - ANKARA- Manned by 15 Turkish soldiers on twice-weekly rotation, the mausoleum of Suleyman Shah has been decreed a Turkish enclave within Syria since the 1921 treaty that sealed the deal between the two nations.

But now the Turkish government is worried about possible attacks against the tomb of the grandfather of Osman I The Great, founder of the Ottoman Empire. Located in the bucolic village of Kara Kozak, on the banks of the Euphrates river, the mausoleum is just 50 kilometers from the embattled city of Aleppo, where Syrian rebels and government forces have been clashing fiercely for weeks. ''The tomb of Suleyman Shah and the land that surrounds it are Turkish territory. Any act of aggression against it would be an attack on our territory and NATO territory,'' Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on TV on Wednesday. Syria-Turkey relations have been problematic ever since the downing in late June of a Turkish Air Force jet off the coast of Syria. Turkey supports the Sunnite rebels in Syria, whose regime, it says, supports Kurdish insurgents, who recently launched an offensive in Turkish Kurdistan.

Turkey fears ''attacks or provocations,'' Hurriyet daily wrote on Wednesday, and the premier's publicly televised warning may be due to intelligence from pro-Assad militias, or even to sabre-rattling by jihadist elements among the rebels. Nothing has yet altered the daily routine of the soldiers guarding the Shah's mausoleum, which is 25 kilometers from the city of Mursitpinar, just across the Turkish border. Supplies still arrive regularly from the city of Sanliurfa, in southeastern Turkey, and the men still follow their routine of raising the flag, presenting arms, and keeping an eye on the occasional pilgrim or visitor.

Withdrawal from this sleepy enclave sacred to the memory of Turkey's imperial past is unlikely under the current Erdogan administration, which aims to restore the country to its erstwhile status as a powerful player between Europe and Asia, according to Turkish commentators. (ANSAMed).

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