Turkish Parliament Approves Syria Military Action
October 04, 2012
The Turkish parliament has authorized cross-border military operations in neighboring Syria.
The state-owned Anadolu Agency said the bill, approved on October 4 by a vote of 320-129, gives the government authority for one year to send troops into Syria or carry out air strikes.
The decision followed an emergency session after artillery shelling from Syria killed five civilians, comprising two women and three children, in the Turkish border town Akcakale on October 3.
Turkey has already retaliated, launching artillery bombardments against targets inside Syrian border areas. This marks the first time it has fired into Syria during the 18-month-long unrest against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
After the parliamentary vote on October 4, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said “The bill is not for war… It has deterrent qualities.” He also said that the priority was to act in coordination with international bodies.
Atalay maintained that Syria had admitted it was responsible for the shelling in Turkey and formally apologized for the deaths.
Moscow, a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, has called on Syria to publicly state that the shelling was accidental and would not be repeated.
Speaking in Islamabad, visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed that both sides needed to do more to reduce tensions.
“I want to express hope that the Syrian and Turkish authorities, their relevant bodies, establish a channel of communication, considering the tensions on their common border,” he said.
The United Nations Security Council is to meet later on October 4, following a Turkish request for the body to take “necessary action” in order to stop Syrian “aggression.
The United Nations has urged Syria to respect its neighbors’ territorial integrity.
NATO Emergency Meeting
NATO stated that it “continues to stand by [fellow member] Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally.”
That statement came after NATO held an emergency meeting at Turkey’s request on October 3 to inform the alliance of Syria’s artillery attack.
Barbara Zanchetta, a security expert at the Geneva Center for Security Policy in Switzerland, believes Ankara is building a case for asking its NATO allies to support it should Turkey ultimately opt for military action against Syria.
But she maintains that such support, which must be given by consensus among the other NATO members, is not likely to be forthcoming soon:
“Turkey has clearly said this is an act of aggression,” she says. “At the same time I think what the NATO Secretary General and Secretary Clinton and others have said is that they have expressed support for Turkey but they have been far from saying that they would actually become directly involved.”
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union have condemned Syria’s actions.
In Cairo, the head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, warned that the border tensions between Syria and Turkey “implies a dangerous threat to peace and security in the region and the world.”
The Turkish town of Akcakale has been fired on from Syria several times over recent weeks.
In June, Syrian government forces fired on a Turkish military jet which crashed into the sea with the loss of two pilots.
In the past, the Turkish military has moved into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish militants.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.