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Impressions From Turkey’s Syrian Frontier

A visit to Turkey’s border with Syria provides context for the complexity of Ankara’s choices in dealing with the Syria war.
Turkish soldiers patrol on the Turkish-Syrian border in the town of Ceylanpinar in Sanliurfa province July 19, 2013. Kurdish militias have sought to consolidate their grip in northern Syria after exploiting the chaos of the country's civil war over the past year by seizing control of districts as President Bashar al-Assad's forces focused elsewhere. The clashes have reduced to the odd burst of gunfire, but days of heavy exchanges last month sent stray shells and bullets crashing onto the Turkish side. The T

I spent Sept. 18–19 on the Turkey-Syria border. I didn’t confine myself to Nusaybin, on the Turkish side of the border, which is adjacent to Qamishli, the largest city in northern Syria and a population that is 80% Kurds. On the night of Sept. 18, a night before a full moon, I was at Derbesiyeh, 60 kilometers west of Qamishli and the only border crossing open to food and medicine shipments to Syrian Kurds. I settled on a railroad track to watch some 40 trucks ferrying into Syria 400 tons of supplies collected from Turkey. I spent several hours on the tracks — “ground zero” on the Turkey-Syria border.

The collection and shipment of relief assistance is being coordinated by the Nusaybin municipality, which is why the mayor of Nusaybin, accompanied by Turkish gendarmerie, was discussing the technical issues of transferring supplies via the railroad to officials of the Supreme Kurdish Council, who are responsible for governing Syria Kurds on the other side.

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