Turkish PM pays surprise visit to Ottoman tomb in Syria
ŞANLIURFATurkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has crossed into Syria to pay an unscheduled visit to the historic tomb of Süleyman Şah.
Military helicopters protected the Turkish convoy while the prime minister visited the tomb, only 253 meters away from the border, near Syria’s Ashme village.
The Süleyman Şah Tomb, containing the remains and relics of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was declared Turkish territory in a treaty signed with France in 1921, when France was the colonial power in Syria. Most recently in the 1970s, the Damascus government recognized Turkish sovereignty over the plot, while changing its place inside Syria due to the construction of a dam.
In February the contents of the tomb were moved closer to Turkey from their original place some 37 km from the Turkey-Syria border, in an operation in which 44 soldiers guarding the tomb were also evacuated over concerns of a potential threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The third transfer of the tomb took it further north within Syria. Davutoğlu, who was in the Şanlıurfa province for an election rally on May 10, was accompanied by Hulusi Akar, the commander of Turkey’s Land Forces while crossing the border with armored vehicles, Doğan News Agency reported.
“Today, together with our esteemed Land Forces commander and other commanders, we hugged our brothers in Ashme on the Turkish side and crossed over to the Syrian side,” Davutoğlu said at the election rally in Şanlıurfa.
“We also hugged our brothers there and paid our respects to Süleyman Şah,” he added.
Davutoğlu also said a new tomb would be built as soon as possible to replace the temporary one. “Our flag will fly until eternity in Süleyman Şah’s residence inside Syrian soil," he vowed.
Turkish officials have claimed the land around the tomb as Ankara’s territory, “wherever in Syria it is.”