13 Oct 2012

Turkey threatens retaliation if Syria strikes again

Turkey fortifies security and threatens to retaliate forcefully if its border with Syria is violated again.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today that Turkey will retaliate without hesitation if the violence is not contained. Turkey’s armed forces have repeatedly responded over the past few weeks to gunfire and shelling spilling across the border from Syria.

More tanks were deployed on the Turkish side of the border on Saturday alongside anti-missile launchers. Hostilities have escalated since artillery shelling killed five in a Turkish village last week. Fighting has also crept over Syria’s borders into Lebanon, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, stoking fears that the Syrian civil conflict could drag other countries into a regional war.

In an effort to lower the temperature, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested on 10 October that the best way to resolve the conflict with Ankara would be through direct contact between Syrian and Turkish authorities.

“Syria welcomes Lavrov’s statement on the necessity to create a mechanism of direct dialogue on security issues between Syria and Turkey,” Syria’s foreign ministry said in a statement circulated by local media today.

Security committee proposed

Syrian authorities have discussed with the Russian ambassador in Damascus “the possibility of setting up a joint Syrian-Turkish committee on monitoring security along the mutual border,” according to the Syrian statement.

Turkey’s parliament has already authorised its government to launch cross-border military operations as a deterrent against potential attacks from Syria for the period of one year.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria, was holding talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu today.

Calls to restructure UN Security Council

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down accusing him of murdering his own people. The Syrian authorities, in return, have accused Turkey of arming and funding Syrian rebels.

Mr Erdogan blamed the UN Security Council for a lack of action over the human tragedy in Syria, saying the council’s structure was prone to deadlock.

During his opening speech at the Istanbul World Forum on Saturday, Mr Erdogan said the council needed to undergo a major structural reform.

“Nobody can say that the structure of the UN builds on justice. There are five permanent and 10 temporary members. Do 10 members mean something? When any of five members vote no, everything finishes,” he said.

‘Air piracy’

Turkey infuriated Syria on Wednesday when it intercepted a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus and seized what it said was military equipment on board.

Syria denounced the move as air piracy and Russia has said the cargo was radar parts that complied with international law.

Mr Davutoglu will also meet separately in Istanbul with Arab leaders and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for talks on the Syria crisis Saturday.

Despite the rhetoric, most analysts believe that neither Syria nor Turkey want matters to get out of hand. The US and European powers have also shown no desire to intervene militarily, despite hand-wringing over the bloodshed.