Turkey’s southern Hatay province stolen from Syria – Sputnik

The escalating conflict in Idlib province is taking place in a region with a long history between Turkey and Syria, as directly across the border is Hatay province, given to Turkey in 1939 after a disputed referendum, Russian Sputnik news agency said.

Under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Hatay was part of the French mandate of Syria and Lebanon but France held a referendum just before World War II broke out and Hatay voted to become part of Turkey, it said. 

Syrian media has begun highlighting the suspicious and controversial way Hatay was given to the Turks, Sputnik said, after the conflict in Syria began to draw in Turkey.

Ankara is widely believed to have bussed in Turks from other parts of Anatolia and rigged the result of the referendum, it said.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces have launched an offensive on the last rebel-held province of Idlib. Turkey, which backs some of the anti-Syrian government rebels, is on the opposite side of the offensive. More than 55 Turkish troops have been killed since Turkey began sending further reinforcements earlier this year into areas of northwest Syria under the control of rebels.

Relations between Turkey and Syria were strained for decades over Hatay, it said, but they began to improve in the 1990s as Turkey sought Syrian help in combating Kurdish guerrillas.

The two sides, prior to the Syrian civil war in 2011, even signed an agreement to build a $28 million Syrian-Turkish Friendship Dam on the Orontes River, Sputnik said.