Turkey set for further anti-Syria measures
PARLIAMENT IN Turkey approved a motion yesterday that authorises further military action against Syria, as Turkey began its second day of shelling targets within Syria in response to a mortar attack that killed five civilians.
The measure, ratified after several hours of a closed-door session in the capital, Ankara, permits cross-border raids, although senior officials insisted that Nato-ally Turkey did not want a war with its Arab neighbour.
Such an escalation could turn Syria’s bloody civil strife into a regional conflict with international involvement. The motion read, in part, “the ongoing crisis in Syria affects the stability and security in the region and now the escalating animosity affects our national security,” according to the semi-official Anatolian News Agency.
The Turkish military pounded targets inside Syria yesterday in retaliation for the mortar attack a day earlier that killed five civilians in Turkey. Local news reports said Turkish shells fell inside Syria on at least 10 occasions after midnight, landing near the border town of Tel Abyad, six miles inside Syrian territory, across a historic fault line where modern Turkey abuts Arab lands that once formed part of the Ottoman Empire.
Activist groups in Syria said the shelling killed several Syrian government soldiers. The exchanges sent tremors across a region fearful that the mounting violence in Syria will spill into neighbouring countries.
Ibrahim Kalin, a senior aide to prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a Twitter feed: “Turkey does not want war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary.” In a separate message, he said: “Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue.”
The assurance came as western European leaders, who have joined Turkey in supporting rebel forces in Syria, sought to prevent the border clash from flaring out of control. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, criticised Syria for Wednesday’s mortar attack but urged restraint “on all sides”.
British foreign secretary William Hague called Turkey’s response understandable, saying, “an outrageous act has taken place, Turkish citizens have been killed inside Turkey by forces from another country . . . So we express our strong solidarity with Turkey, but we don’t want to see a continuing escalation of this incident.”
Nato, to which Turkey belongs and whose charter calls in some cases for collective action when one of its members is targeted militarily, met on Wednesday night to discuss the crisis.
At the UN Security Council, Russia blocked an attempt to issue a strongly worded statement condemning Syria for the attack, diplomats said, reinforcing council divisions over the conflict that have been in play since the uprising started in May 2011.
Azerbaijan, working on a request from Turkey, had proposed a draft statement that also expressed alarm about the conflict spilling into neighbouring countries, a long-feared escalation.