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Turkey angered by Syrian declaration vowing to ‘take back’ border province of Hatay

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The Turkish government has been angered by a declaration recently issued by the People’s Assembly of Syria, the country’s legislative body, which said Liwa al-Saleb Iskenderun, Arabic for Turkey’s southern Hatay province, was an integral part of Syrian soil, vowing to “return the stolen land to its rightful owners.”

“The tripartite agreement between the French, British and Turkish occupations in 1939 … is a shameful agreement,” they said in a declaration issued on November 29, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

The Sanjak of Alexandretta, as it was called at the time, declared independence as the Hatay State in 1938, but it later joined Turkish territory as Hatay province in 1939 following a local referendum.

The assembly stated that Turkey had played a continuous role in “mercenaries and terrorists” attacking Syrian land and the occupation of Syrian territory.

They accused Turkey of cutting off water for more than 1 million people in Syria, adding that it had been “in flagrant violation of the most basic rules and principles of human rights and international and humanitarian laws.”

Responding to the declaration, the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Thursday said they “strongly reject the impertinent and unlawful statement targeting the territorial integrity of our country,” calling the assembly “devoid of democratic legitimacy and under no circumstances representative of the Syrian people.”

The ministry further said: “Such statements are also signs of delusional impasse of the regime, which has been oppressing his own people for years, responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands innocent people and displacement of millions from their lands and homes.”

Turkey and its proxies have seized control of territory inside Syria over several military operations launched since 2016, focusing heavily on various Kurdish militias.

In late October, Turkey’s parliament extended the military’s mandate to launch cross-border operations in Syria and Iraq by two more years.

The motion, which was first approved in 2013 to support the international campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has since been renewed annually, in large part to counter the geographic control of Syrian Kurdish forces close to the Turkish border and to confront Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel rear-bases in Iraq.

Ankara labels the PKK, which has been waging a deadly war against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984, as a terrorist organization.

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