Turkey will respond with more force

2012-10-10 17:42
Turkish soldiers taking position in the southern border town of Akcakale. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

Turkish soldiers taking position in the southern border town of Akcakale. (Bulent Kilic, AFP)

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Ankara - Turkey's military chief vowed Wednesday to respond with more force to any further shelling from Syria, keeping up the pressure on its southern neighbour a day after Nato said it stood ready to defend Turkey.

General Necdet Ozel was inspecting troops who have been put on alert along the 910km border with Syria after a week of cross-border artillery and mortar exchanges escalated tensions between the neighbors, sparking fears of a wider regional conflict.

Turkey has reinforced the border with artillery guns and also deployed more fighter jets to an air base close to the border region since shelling from Syria killed five Turkish civilians last week.

"We responded and if [the shelling] continues, we will respond with more force," the private Dogan news agency quoted Ozel as saying during a visit to the town of Akcakale. He offered condolences to a man who lost his wife and three daughters to a Syrian shell.

Schools in Akcakale reopened on Wednesday despite the tense situation. They had been closed due to security concerns.

On Tuesday, Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was ready to defend Turkey, its strongest show of support to its ally since the firing began.

The solidarity is largely symbolic. Nato member Turkey has sought backing in case it is attacked, but despite publicly supporting Syria's rebels, Ankara isn't seeking direct intervention. And the alliance is thought to be reluctant to get involved militarily at a time when its main priority is the war in Afghanistan.

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