INTERNATIONAL

Turkey, Syria to raise ties to new level

Atul Aneja

DUBAI: Turkey and Syria have decided to raise their relationship to a new level within days of host Ankara’s decision to bar Israel from participating in a major multinational air exercise.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Syrian counterpart, Walid Mualem on Tuesday held the first meeting of the Turkey-Syria Strategic Cooperation Council in Aleppo. Both sides signed an agreement for visa-free travel for their citizens.

Mr. Davutoglu said at a press conference Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would visit Damascus in early December.

Tuesday’s meeting followed Turkey’s announcement on Sunday that it would hold its first military exercise with Syria this week. The manoeuvres would involve ground forces and would be held along acommon border area. Both sides are also looking ahead at shoring up their energy ties. On Friday, Turkey’s state-run Antolian agency quoted Oil Minister Sufian Alao as saying the two countries will establish a joint energy company, which could scout for oil in Turkey, Syria and third countries. He added that the two could also look at generating electricity using atomic energy. Analysts say energy partnership could be one of the focal areas during Mr. Erdogan’s December visit to Damascus.