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Closing Syrian-Turkish border is crucial but hardly achievable goal - analysts

December 01, 2015, 18:56 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
View of the devastated Syrian city of Kobani seen from border town of Suruc, Turkey

View of the devastated Syrian city of Kobani seen from border town of Suruc, Turkey

© AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

MOSCOW, December 1. /TASS/. Closing the border between Syria and Turkey is crucial to success in the struggle against terrorist Islamic State, but nobody should think that this task can be coped with easily, polled experts told TASS.

Washington has demanded that Ankara should build up the contingent of its troops on the 100-kilometer stretch of the border with Syria, which Islamic State militants cross either way to get to the area of hostilities and back, Wall Street Journal reports. French President Francois Hollande, too, raised the theme of closing the Syrian-Turkish border when he visited Washington on November 24. After talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, "We are certain that by closing this border we will largely cope with the task of uprooting terrorism in Syria, naturally, in cooperation with the Syrian government."

The president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, does not doubt that the Syrian border must be closed in order to plug the transit routes Islamic State militants now use to reach foreign markets to make billions by selling crude oil and getting support from the outside, but this is a matter of time.

"One should not think that closing the Syrian-Turkish border is an easy task. The Syrian government army over the past four years has been exhausted. Now, with support from Russia’s air and space group it is building up strength and rearming itself. For mounting an effective offensive against Islamic State positions near the borders with Turkey the Syrian army will need reinforcements and a corresponding decision by the Syrian leadership," Satanovsky told TASS.

Some analysts believe that joint efforts by the Syrian government troops and Kurdish forces in areas bordering on Turkey can cut off all of the Islamic State’s supply routes. "But the Kurds prefer to defend their own territories first and foremost, so the chances they may team up with the government army are few, if at all," Satanovsky said.

Russia’s leading expert on oriental studies, Georgy Mirsky, is certain that Ankara should have undertaken to carry the burden of efforts to plug the Islamic militants’ supply routes. "Both Washington and the European Union have accused Turkey of keeping the border with Syria open, thereby conniving with the Islamic State and tempting illegal migrants to move to Europe. But Turkey is not interested in closing the border altogether. Otherwise it will lose a source of low-price crude oil," Mirsky said.

"The Syrian army is far away from the theater of combat operations on the border with Turkey and conducting offensive operations for it is a problem.

"Although the United States has supplied weapons to the Kurdish militias in defiance of Turkey’s criticism the Kurds are pursuing their own aims. Sealing off the Islamic State does not look a realistic task now," Mirsky said.

"Turkey is waging wars on three frontlines at a time - with the Islamic State militants, with the Kurds and with Bashar Assad’s army. Its president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is forced to please one and all. He cannot afford to quarrel with the United States or the European Union. It is likewise risky for him to crack down on the Islamic State, particularly so in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Ankara. The question whether the border can and will be closed remains suspended," Mirsky said.

The president of the Academy of Geo-Political Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, believes that to seal the 100-kilometer stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border tightly enough this area, currently a scene of active combat operations, will have to be put under control. The Syrian army has been moving too slowly.

"At the current phase establishing full control of the border is a task neither government troops nor Kurdish militias can cope with. Only strikes by Russia’s air group in Syria will be able to hinder or disrupt the convoys of tanker trucks and Islamic State’s militants. Only its operations will yield the desired effect," Sivkov told TASS.

He warned that Ankara would be taking steps to prevent this by all means. The shooting down of Russia’s Sukhoi-24 bomber by the Turkish Air Force was a confirmation of this.

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