Turkey closes border gate across Syria over al-Nusra threat
Uğur Ergan – ANKARATurkey has limited cross-border movements at its Cilvegözü border crossing on the Syrian border because the area “has been taken by a group that Turkey considers a terrorist group,” which sources name as the al-Nusra Front.
“There is a heavy control and a slowdown in the crossing and exports of food other than humanitarian aid and other goods from the Bab al-Hawa border gate to Cilvegözü in Turkey’s Hatay,” Customs Minister Bülent Tüfenkci said on Aug. 10 in Ankara at a security meeting a day earlier, adding that the situation would continue until the “disorder” across the border ends or calms down.
“We already do not have any imports from Syria. Thus, this is not a problem. I think things will be fine in 10 to 15 days,” he said.
Security sources told daily Hürriyet that militants under al-Nusra recently took the Bab al-Hawa crossing in Syria from Ahrar al-Sham, which cooperates with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a group supported by Turkey.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım chaired a security meeting on Aug. 9 with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan along with Tüfenkci, not a regular participant in such security meetings.
The Turkish military has recently been building up presence near the Syrian border and in the northern Syrian town of Azaz, which serves as a military base for the Turkish army within the Euphrates Shield operation.
Turkish officials haven’t confirmed any military offensive into the Kurdish-controlled town of Afrin in northwestern Syria against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), but media reports say there can be another operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the YPG.
Ankara has repeatedly expressed concerns about the U.S.’s arms delivery to the YPG, which dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the Raqqa offensive because of the group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) flew above the border line and Idlib in Syria for two days, sources also said, adding that the vehicles have also been watching Afrin.
The partnership between the United States and the YPG in northern Syria is “creating the ground for other terror organizations in the region,” Çavuşoğlu has said.
“Even if just for tactical reasons, the use of a terrorist organization, the PYD/YPG [Democratic Union Party and its armed wing], in the Raqqa operation will lead to other terror organizations in the region gaining more ground,” Çavuşoğlu told daily Türkiye in an interview on Aug. 10.