Turkey ‘not far’ from war with Syria, warns PM
TURKISH Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned today that his country was “not far” from war with Syria following cross-border attacks this week, highlighting the danger that the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Asaad will drag in its neighbours.
In a belligerent speech to a crowd in Istanbul, Erdogan warned the Assad government it would be making a fatal mistake if it picked a fight with Turkey.
The speech followed a Syrian mortar barrage on a town in southeast Turkey that killed five people on Tuesday.
Turkish artillery bombarded Syrian military targets on Wednesday and Thursday in response, killing several Syrian soldiers, and the Turkish parliament has authorised cross-border military action in the event of further aggression.
“We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either,” Erdogan said in his speech. “Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake.”
At the United Nations, the Security Council condemned the original Syrian attack and demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately.
The United States has said it stands by its NATO ally’s right to defend itself against aggression spilling over from Syria’s war.
The cross-border violence was the most serious so far in the conflict, now in its 19th month, and underscored how it could flare across the region.
Turkey, once an Assad ally and now a leading voice in cals for him to quit, shelters more than 90,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory and has allowed rebel army leaders sanctuary. Violence has also spilled over into Lebanon.
A Turkish official said last night has pulled tanks and other military equipment away from its border with Turkey followingtensions this week.
The Foreign Ministry official in Ankara said the Syrian pullback was an effort to remove any “perception of threat.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations and Syrian officials were not available for comment.
On Thursday night UN Security Council members managed to bridge differences to condem the cross-border shelling in Turkey “in the strongest terms.”
In the press statement, which needed approval from all 15 council members, the UN’s most powerful body said the incident “highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbors and on regional peace and stability.”
It also extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Turkey.
The council demanded an immediate end to such violations of international law and called on the Syrian government “to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.”
Russia’s agreement that the Syrian shelling violated international law was a key concession by Moscow. The original Western-backed draft, proposed by Azerbaijan, condemned the shelling “in the strongest terms” and called it a violation of international law. Proposed Russian amendments had not mentioned any breaches of international law.
The Security Council has condemned “in the strongest terms” four suicide bombings in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, which killed scores of civilians this week.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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