03 June 2005
Turkish officials are confirming that a Syrian scud missile broke up over the province of Hatay in southern Turkey last week, scattering debris over two villages. The officials say there were no casualties.
The incident drew international attention Friday, after media reports that Israeli military officials said Syria test-fired three Scud missiles, designed to carry chemical warheads. It was the first such test since 2001.
Turkish officials say they sought clarification from Syria. They say Syria provided assurances that the missile had not targeted Turkey intentionally.
Turkey's ambassador in Washington, Faruk Logolu, called the incident "a misunderstanding," adding that Syrian authorities had expressed their regrets.
Western diplomats say Turkey's efforts to downplay the incident is a further sign of its desire to maintain amicable ties with its Arab neighbor. The rapprochement comes after years of intense hostility triggered by Syria's long-time support for Kurdish separatist rebels, known as the PKK.
Tensions came to a head in 1998, when Turkey threatened to go to war against Syria. Syria promptly extradited the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who was captured soon after by Turkish forces in Kenya. Relations between the two countries have steadily improved ever since, prompting concern from Turkey's top allies, Israel and the United States.
The United States and Israel accuse Syria of arming terrorist groups in the Middle East, and of providing bases for insurgents targeting U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.