Friday, January 22, 2010

Syria to Recognize Turkish-control of Hatay?

Hatay borders the northwest of Syria. Note the difference between the official CIA Factbook map (left) and the Syrian-modified version of the same map(right). Not only is Hatay given to Syria but Israel and the West Bank are united as "Palestine"

Turkey and Syria are on the cusp of signing a new treaty on water rights and water sharing. The new treaty will further Turkey's turn away from a wannabe European state to Middle Eastern power broker. Syria meanwhile is in the middle of a devastating drought and needs to import more water if it hopes to continue to support its growing population and agricultural producers.

One thing is hold up the ratification of the mutually beneficial treaty: Hatay. Hatay Province is a part of the Republic of Turkey that once belonged to the French-dominated Syrian mandate. The region was and is an overwhelmingly Turkish area that until the late 1930s had more Turks, Alawites, and Christians than Arab Sunnis. The Turksih government managed to convince the French to give the region autonomous status separate from the rest of Syria. In 1938 the regional government declared itself an independent republic, which depicted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (sort of), and joined Turkey in the following year. Syria has never recognized this and claims to this day that the territory was illegally stolean from them.

Turkey is now holding up implementation of the new water treaty unless Syria agrees to recognize Hatay as part of Turkey. If it does it will be the second major Syrian concession in two years. First, in 2008, Syria recognized Lebanon as separate and sovereign. Up until then Syria say Lebanon as its backyard will going back-and-forth in an internal debate of whether or not to try to reclaim Lebanon which was once part of the Syrian Mandate as well. Syria has yet to agree to Turkey's demand but water pressures may force their hand.

It took 65 years for Syria to recognize Lebanon (though it still plays its hand with Hezbollah and Amal) and it has been arguing for Hatay for 71 years. These examples point towards many more decades of disagreement against Israel over the Golan Heights. That territorial conflict will only be 43 years old this June.

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