In October 1998 the Adana agreement was signed between representatives of the Syrian and Turkish governments, ending an intense escalation of tensions between the two nations throughout the 1990s. This essay aims to discuss this period of escalation and show how both sides attempted to use differing methods to coerce the other to sway its resolve on certain issues. We shall see how this manipulation of differing factors almost led to conflict and ended with the apparent capitulation of Syria to Turkish demands.
To discuss the crisis we need to understand on what issues the Turkish and Syrian governments disagreed to the extent that it almost brought them to war. When looking at relations of Syria and Turkey, we find that the prevalent sticking points impeding positive relations between the two nations are water, security and, to a lesser extent, territorial claims. Water, namely the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, is significant for both sides in the domain of domestic politics. For Turkey the rivers are seen as being a tool to develop its impoverished southeastern areas and for Syria water is fundamental in its vision of self-sufficiency, full independence and Arab nationalism. Security was a vital concern for both states in the 1990s.
In the post-Cold War era Turkey felt the need to engage in regional politics due to being surrounded by potentially aggressive states, the increasingly destabilizing factor of Kurdish dissident groups, such as the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [Kurdish Workers' Party] (PKK) that Syria had backed since the 1960s and the lack of guaranteed support from NATO on security threats. Syria, on the other hand, sensed the need to improve its relations with other regional powers and to attempt to be closer to the US in order to remain involved in the wider peace process with Israel.
[...] Hinnebusch, ‘The Foreign Policy of Syria', in Raymond Hinnebusch & Anoushiravan Ehteshami, eds, The Foreign Policies of Middle East States, (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner : 2002) pp. 141–165, at: p.159.  Hatay had been a province of Turkey since 1939 but “the Syrian side never accepted the legitimacy of the unification”,M.B Altunişik & Ö. Tür, p. 231.  A. Çarkoğlu & M. Eder, ‘Domestic Concerns and the Water Conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin', Middle East Studies, vol. 37(1) (2001), pp. 41-71, at: p. 61.  M.B. Aykan, ‘The Turkish-Syrian Crisis of October 1998: A Turkish View', Middle East Policy, Vol. [...]
[...] Gresh, ‘Turkish-Israeli-Syrian Relations and their Impact on the Middle East', Middle East Journal, 52:2 (Spring 1998), pp. 188-203, at: p. 194.  Statement made by Ambassador Uluç Ӧzulker, deputy under secretary of state in charge of bilateral political relations in the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry. See Hiirriyet, October 13, 1998. Mentioned in M.B. Aykan, p. 175.  Hürriyet, 8 October 1998, cited in Aykan, p. 175.  M.B Altunişik & Ö. Tür, p.234.  See Kurdistan Commentary - http://kurdistancommentary.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/kurds-in-the-middle- turkish-syrian-relations/ [accessed 30 September 2011]  Ibrahim Hamidi of Al-Hayat explained: ‘Giving support to PKK in Turkey was going to keep the Kurds in Syria quiet. [...]
[...] Changing Syrian-Turkish Relations', in Security Dialogue, Vol. 37, no.2 (June 2006), pp. 217-236 Aras, B., and R.K. Polat, ‘From Conflict to Cooperation: Desecuritization of Turkey's Relations with Syria and Iran', Security Dialogue, vol. 39(5) (October 2008), pp. 495-515 Aykan, Mahmut, ‘The Turkish-Syrian Crisis of October 1998: A Turkish View', Middle East Policy, Vol. VI, no. 4, (June 1994), pp. 174-191 Çarkoğlu, A., and M. Eder, ‘Domestic Concerns and the Water Conflict over the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin', Middle East Studies, vol. [...]
[...] Kirisci, ‘The Kurdish Question and Turkish Foreign Policy', in D. Kenides & L. Martin, eds, The Future of Turkish Foreign Policy (MIT Press: Cambridge USA: 2004) pp. 274-309, at: p. 288.  According to Bülent Ecevit in Cumhuriyet, October 8, 1998 and October 14, 1998, mentioned in Aykan, p. 180.  K. Kirisci, p. 287.  M. Aykan, p. 177.  The Syrian ambassador to the US brought up the issue of Hatay in a radio show in Milliyet, May 7 1998, cited in K. [...]
using our reader.