Turkey military action in Syria approved

2012-10-04 22:22
Local residents check the damaged house where five Turkish civilians were killed on October 3 by a mortar bomb in the southern border town of Akcakale. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

Local residents check the damaged house where five Turkish civilians were killed on October 3 by a mortar bomb in the southern border town of Akcakale. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

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Beirut/Istanbul -The Turkish parliament on Thursday approved a request by the government for a possible military operation inside neighbouring Syria, although Ankara said the go-ahead did not mean a declaration of war.

The decision, approved 320-129, was made at an emergency parliamentary session. It authorises the action if the government deems it necessary, Turkish media reported.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the decision was not a declaration of war.

"This document is not a go-ahead for war," said Atalay, according to Turkish media.

The parliamentary approval was only meant to deter further shelling attacks from Syria and to allow the government to defend the country's interests, he added.

Atalay said his country had accepted as an apology Syrian statements of regret about Wednesday's cross-border shelling that killed five Turkish civilians.

The incident drew retaliatory Turkish strikes against targets inside Syria late Wednesday and Thursday.

Syria's leadership expressed the sentiments through the United Nations, the Anatolian News Agency quoted Atalay as saying.

The Syrian message assured that "such an incident will, from now on, not happen any more".

There was no official comment from Syria.

Escalation not helpful

A draft statement was circulating at the UN Security Council, which would note that the new development constitutes a threat to peace and security in the region, but call for both Syria and Turkey to exercise restraint.

Diplomats said Russia opposes to any reference to Syria being a threat to the region.

"I think the Turkish authorities will carry out a limited military operation in the area where the shells were fired into Turkey and will try to comb the area," Abdallah Zahed Gul, a prominent Turkish analyst, told dpa.

Similar legislation authorising "operations outside the Turkish borders" allow military action against Kurdish extremists in northern Iraq.

Turkey began shelling targets inside Syria late on Wednesday in retaliation for the Syrian mortar attack, which killed a woman and four of her children.

Rami al-Idlibi, an activist in Syria's northern Idlib province, told dpa that at least five Turkish shells had landed near the border town of Tal Abyad. Five soldiers had been killed and 15 wounded, he said.

"There are artillery bases for the Syrian army in Tal Abyad and the Turkish shelling is targeting the army positions only," al-Idlibi said.

The Turkish army deployed a series of artillery and anti-aircraft missiles near the northern Turkish-Syrian border last month, when Syrian shells slammed into areas inside Turkey without causing casualties.

Syria said it would investigate Wednesday's shelling.

The European Union urged both countries to show restraint.

Tragic occurrence

"A further escalation is clearly not helpful and not welcome, and it's of the utmost priority that the violence stops now," Michael Mann, the spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said in Brussels.

Russia, Syria's key ally, called on Damascus to provide public assurances that there would be no more violent incidents on the border with Turkey.

Syria had assured Russia that the shelling had been a "tragic occurrence," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for calm and called on both sides to show "great discretion."

"We utterly condemn the Syrian attacks on Turkey," she added.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described the Syrian act as "a violation of international law that poses a serious threat to peace and international security."

Regional security

Nato called on Syria to immediately end its "aggressive acts" against Turkey, following a meeting late on Wednesday at the request of member state Turkey.

In Cairo, the head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi warned of what he called a serious development on the Syrian-Turkish border and its impact on regional peace and security.

In Syria itself, activists said the death toll from violence across the country reached 80 on Thursday, mainly in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, as well as suburban areas of the capital Damascus.

Rebels claimed they have downed a fighter jet near Aleppo, a day after suicide bombings killed at least 31 people, mainly government soldiers.

Both sides have been fighting for months for control of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city and the country's commercial hub.

News from Syria cannot be independently verified, as most foreign media have been barred from restive areas since the uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad started in March last year.

- SAPA
Read more on:    bashar assad  |  russia  |  syria  |  turkey  |  syria conflict
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