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New border gate to be built between Turkey and Syria

The government is preparing to build another border gate in the buffer zone between the border gates of Cilvegözü in Turkey and Bab al-Hawa in Syria in order to increase security after a car blast took place in the buffer zone on Feb. 11, killing 14 people. The plan to establish a new gate came after a car blast occurred in the buffer zone earlier this month. A total of 14 people, including three Turkish citizens, were killed and at least 28 were injured in the blast at the Turkish border gate of Cilvegözü. This car bomb raised fears that violence from Syria's 22-month conflict may be spreading to Turkey. In an attempt to prevent the emergence of such a possibility, the Turkish government plans to take more protective measures in the area. The new border gate will be established two kilometers away from the existing Cilvegözü border gate. By doing so, Turkey is trying to narrow the buffer zone which is currently under the tight control of gendarmes. Turkish gendarmes have had difficulty controling the large buffer zone since the start of the civil war in Syria. The entry of Syrians will be handled through this new planned border gate while people traveling from Turkey to Syria will go through the current Cilvegözü border gate. In other words, entries into and exits from Turkey will be at separate border gates. The buffer zone is located predominantly on a mountainous area but the new border gate will be built on a flat area.
The reason for the construction of a new border gate is not only to ensure security but is also based on forward planning by the Turkish government, which believes that the existing border gate will be insufficient to handle the situation should the Syrian regime be defeated in the future.
The buffer zone between the Cilvegözü and Bab al-Hawa border gates has become a center for smuggling due to a lack of security. Turkish smugglers cross through the Cilvegözü border gate to purchase fuel, oil and cigarettes without entering Syrian territory.
Meanwhile, the construction of four border gates which the Turkish government decided to establish on its border with Iraq last month has not been started yet. The Cabinet decided to build four new border gates in the villages of Üzümlü, Derecik, Aktepe and Gülyazı in Uludere, a district of Hakkari province, during a meeting held on Jan. 11 in an attempt to prevent illegal smuggling. This decision was made after the Uludere killings on Dec. 28, 2011, in which Turkish warplanes mistakenly bombed 34 villagers who had been involved in smuggling in the area during an operation meant to target Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants. The government quickly acknowledged that the victims were smugglers and not militants.
The decision to build four border gates between Iraq and Turkey in four Hakkari villages was published in the Official Gazette on Jan. 25. The reason for the delay in constructing the new border gates is believed to be the reluctant attitude of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. According to some sources within the Foreign Ministry, Maliki opposes the construction of these four border gates on the Turkish-Iraqi border.
In a related incident, the Turkish government decided to establish a railway link between Iraq and Turkey through Cizre, a district of Şırnak province. After the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, the use of the current railway, which passes through Syrian territory, was suspended due to security reasons. After the cancelation of the railway service, transportation between Iraq and Turkey was disrupted, leading the Turkish government to decide to build a new railway line that would facilitate transportation between Iraq and Turkey.
Turkey will build a 100-kilometer-long railway line between the Iraqi city of Mosul and Cizre. According to sources from the Foreign Ministry, the government has begun negotiating with the Maliki government in Iraq for the planned railway.

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