Turkish PM Makes Surprise Syria Visit to Historic Ottoman Tomb

Suleyman Shah's tomb was relocated closer to the border by Turkey last February in complex operation that angered Syira.

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A screenshot from nsnbc.me of the tomb of Suleyman Shah in Syria
A screenshot from nsnbc.me of the tomb of Suleyman Shah in Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu crossed briefly into Syria on Sunday to visit the tomb of a revered Ottoman figure situated a few hundred meters from the border, in a move likely to anger the authorities in Damascus.

The tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, had originally been sited further inside Syria but was relocated closer to the border in February in a Turkish military operation described by the Syrian government as an act of "flagrant aggression".

Davutoglu's office said in a statement that he had visited the tomb but gave no further details.

"The infiltration of Davutoglu inside Syrian territory without the agreement of the Syrian government is a clear aggression on a country with sovereignty and a breach of laws and international accords," said a Syrian government statement released on the state news agency SANA.

The relocation of the tomb, which involved tanks, drones and reconnaissance planes as well as several hundred ground troops, was the first incursion by Turkish troops into Syria since the start of the civil war there four years ago.

No clashes took place during that operation, although one soldier was killed in an accident.

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivers a speech at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Ankara, Jan. 6, 2015.Credit: AFP

Turkey, a NATO member with a 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria, wants President Bashar al-Assad removed from power but has refused to take a frontline military role in a U.S.-led coalition, arguing that fighting Assad's forces, not just bombing Islamic State militants, should be the aim.

The tomb had been on a site within Syria that Ankara considers sovereign territory as agreed in a 1921 treaty. The Turkish government informed the Syrian consulate in Istanbul about the February operation but did not await Syria's agreement, which Damascus said violated the treaty.

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