Turkey has finished a 167-mile stretch of a 10-foot-high concrete wall along the Syrian border and expects to complete the 560-mile project by mid-2017, Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said Wednesday.
While inspecting a section of the wall in Hatay province, Isik said it will run the length of the Syria-Turkey border, except for about 50 miles where the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers flow -- "for which we will take different measures" to block access by Islamic State militants, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported.
He did not specify what the different measures would be.
Isik said that about 167 miles of the wall had been completed and construction of another 124 miles had begun. The wall will also serve as a barrier to Syrian refugees fleeing that country's five-year-old civil war.
The U.S. and its NATO allies had long pressured Turkey to seal off the border against areas in Syria controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In August, Turkish troops and tanks moved into Syria in Operation Euphrates Shield to clear border areas in concert with the construction of the wall.
Early efforts at building a border wall began in 2014 to combat smuggling and illegal migration, even as Turkey maintained an open-border policy that has seen nearly three million Syrians seek refuge in the country. But the pace of construction accelerated this year.
Turkish officials have compared their wall project to the walls along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border aimed at stopping illegal migrants and drug trafficking. Walls and other barriers now cover about 650 miles of the 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border.
Illegal migration from Mexico has become a major issue in the U.S. presidential election. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pledged to build a wall along the entire length of the border and have Mexico pay for it.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.