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Turkey makes progress on sealing Syria border, but is it enough?

Turkey’s granting the United States access to its military bases, among other factors, has muted US frustration at slow efforts to seal a remaining stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border to foreign fighters and oil smugglers.
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) at the U.S. ambassador's residence during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Paris, France December 1, 2015. Obama urged Turkey on Tuesday to reduce tensions with Moscow after the downing of a Russian warplane and to seal its border with Syria to choke off the supply of money and fighters to Islamic State militants. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  - RTX1WOVR

WASHINGTON — In July, Turkey granted the United States access to use its military bases to conduct air operations against the Islamic State (IS) and to station search and rescue teams. This may have insulated it from Western frustration at Turkey’s slow efforts to close off a remaining 98-kilometer (60-mile) stretch of the Turkish-Syrian border that US officials say is being used by foreign fighters to enter Syria and by IS to smuggle oil. In addition, the United States recognizes that efforts to seal the Turkish-Syrian border have been further complicated by the lack of sufficient Syrian rebel allies to hold land on the Syrian side of the border, by Turkey’s rejection of an autonomous Syrian Kurdish entity emerging on its border and by the humanitarian need to let Syrian refugees flee from the conflict to safety, according to diplomats and analysts.

“I have had repeated conversations with [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan about the need to close the border between Turkey and Syria,” US President Barack Obama said after meeting Erdogan in Paris on Dec. 1. “We’ve seen some serious progress on that front, but there are still some gaps.”

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