Bærer vitne om urettferdighet
Turkish artillery has been firing at targets in Syria after shells from across the border on Wednesday killed five Turkish nationals. Several Syrian troops were killed by the Turkish fire, and Turkey’s border town of Akcakala was shelled, apparently by Syrian government forces, on Wednesday, killing a woman and three children.
Ankara’s response marks the first time it has fired into Syria during the 18-month-long unrest there. Turkey has now asked the UN Security Council to take «necessary action» to stop Syrian «aggression».
The UN Security Council is due to meet later to condemn Syria’s actions.Meanwhile, Nato envoys held an urgent meeting in Brussels at the request of Turkey, who is a member of the military alliance.
The bloc issued a statement saying it «continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law».
At the same time, the government in Ankara is expected to ask the parliament shortly to authorise cross-border military operations in Syria, Turkish media report.
Tension increases to new level
The flare-up on Turkey’s border with Syria carries the growing tension between the two countries to a new level.
It’s the first time that Turkish citizens have been killed by fire from the Syrian side of the border. And it’s the first time that Turkey has responded, by shelling selected targets inside Syria.
Ankara is clearly looking to Nato for solidarity and will doubtless win verbal expressions of support. But at this stage that is unlikely to translate into a move towards joint intervention in the Syrian crisis or support for further escalation of bilateral hostilities.
Both countries are strongly endowed with national pride. Syria was unapologetic after its air defences in June fired on a Turkish military jet which crashed into the sea with the loss of two pilots, amidst disputed circumstances.
Much will now depend on how Damascus reacts to the reported Turkish bombardment.
If neither side is in the mood to carry the exchange further, it may die away now that Turkey has vented its anger in kind, as happens from time to time on the Lebanese border with Israel.
But the incident will further envenom an already bitterly antagonistic relationship, creating further grudges that may find eventual expression.
In a statement, the office of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: «Turkey will never leave unanswered such kinds of provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security”.
Wednesday’s attack is believed to be only the second time that people have died as a result of violence spilling over the border from Syria into Turkey.In Syria itself, at least 34 people were killed and dozens wounded in a series of bomb explosions in the centre of Syria’s second city, Aleppo, on Wednesday.