Turkey OKs Possible Further Action Against Syria

Posted October 4th, 2012 at 1:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The Turkish parliament has voted to authorize further military operations outside its borders after it struck Syrian targets on Thursday in response to a deadly cross-border mortar attack that killed five civilians.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the one-year measure is not a declaration of war, but intended as a deterrent against aggressive action by Syria.

The Turkish official said his government is acting in coordination with international institutions in response to the artillery shelling by Syria that struck the southeast border town of Akcakale. A mother, her three children and a female relative died in the attack.

Atalay said Syria has taken responsibility and formally apologized for the deaths of the five Turkish civilians, and reassured the United Nations that “such an incident will not occur again.”

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara's retaliatory artillery strikes killed three Syrian soldiers near the border town of Tel Abyad. Syrian state media has not reported any casualties.

Local news reports said at least 10 separate attacks early Thursday targeted the area that Turkish forces identified as the source of the Syrian mortars.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Turkey and Syria Thursday to exercise “maximum restraint” amid the rising tensions. Mr. Ban expressed “alarm” at the situation along the Syrian-Turkish border and called on both sides to “exert all efforts to move toward a political solution.”

Speaking in New York, Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar Jaafari urged “states and governments” to act wisely and rationally after the attack.

Also Thursday, the Observatory said Syrian rebels killed 21 elite Republican Guards in Damascus province in an ambush on an army minibus. Separately, troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled the northern city of Aleppo, a day after a series of explosions killed 48 people there.

Ankara said Syria has carried out “aggressive action” against Turkish soil despite repeated warnings and diplomatic initiatives. It said there is now a need to act quickly in the face of additional threats and the parliament approved the deployment of Turkish troops beyond its borders if needed.

Turkey already has a law authorizing military intervention against separatist Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq. Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said Damascus is investigating the origin of the mortar fire.

Russia Thursday blocked the adoption of a draft U.N. statement condemning the deadly Syrian mortar attack and proposed a weaker text that would call for “restraint” on the border without referring to breaches of international law.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that Ankara acted legally and will never fail to retaliate for what he called Syrian provocations against Turkey's national security.