Europe

Turkey PM Davutoglu in unauthorised visit to tomb in Syria

A Turkish army digger is parked next to a Turkish flag at the new site of the Suleyman Shah tomb in the northern Syrian village of Esmesi, Aleppo province, on 22 February 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A Turkish flag was raised over the new burial site of the tomb, now much closer to the border

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has crossed briefly into Syria to visit the historic tomb of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman empire.

Suleyman Shah's tomb was relocated in a covert Turkish military operation in February over concerns that Islamic State militants would destroy it.

Syria described the relocation as an act of "flagrant aggression".

Mr Davutoglu's trip is the first such visit by a Turkish political leader to the 13th-Century tomb in Syria.

Shah, who lived from about 1178 to 1236, was grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman I.

The tomb now lies a few hundred metres from the border with Turkey in Aleppo province. It was originally situated much further inside Syria and was designated the one and only Turkish enclave abroad in accordance with a treaty signed in 1921.

One soldier was accidentally killed while the tomb was relocated, the Turkish army said, in an operation involving tanks, drones and reconnaissance planes.

Mr Davutoglu travelled there on Sunday in a convoy of armoured vehicles, protected by helicopters, the Dogan news agency reports.

The prime minister's unannounced visit into Syria is likely to anger the authorities in Damascus.

The government of President Bashar al-Assad said that Turkey had informed its Istanbul consulate about the operation to move the tomb in February but did not wait for Syria's consent, therefore violating the treaty.

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