For the first time since the Syrian crises began in March 2011, there has been international involvement in the conflict at the military level. The Turkish parliament recently approved a bill authorizing the military to conduct cross-border operations in Syria after shelling from Syrian territory killed five civilians. The conflict has so far claimed the lives of over 30,000 people within Syria’s borders.
The Turkish response to the shelling was prompt — it fired salvos of artillery rounds deep inside Syria. Syria took responsibility for the death of Turkish civilians and apologized. It reassured the UN that “such an incident will not occur again.”
Deputy PM Beris Atalay said Parliament’s authorization was not declaration of war on Syria but gives Turkey the right to respond to any future attacks from Syria. It gives Turkey the ability to unilaterally conduct military operations without assistance of Western or Arab allies. It instituted similar provisions to chase Kurdish rebels in Northern Iraq.
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The NATO military alliance, of which Turkey is a member, met at an emergency session in Brussels and condemned the attack on Turkey. NATO demanded “the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally” and urged the Syrian regime to “put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”
In a rare move, the UN Security Council overcame deep divisions and unanimously approved a statement condemning Syria’s shelling that killed five Turkish women and children “in the strongest terms”. The US and its Western allies wanted a strong condemnation, while the Russians pushed for weaker ones. The Russian’s finally compromised and agreed to recognizing Syria’s transgression as a violation of international law in the statement.
Turkey’s military has returned fire across the border after a Syrian mortar round again landed on Turkish soil on Friday. The incident happened in southern Hatay province on Friday afternoon, Turkish media said. No injuries were reported.
The Syrian crises continues to escalate and spin out of control, yet there appears to be no resolution in sight. As Kofi Annan pointed out in a recent interview, there is a possibility the conflict could explode outside the border and affect the entire region. He believes that a political settlement is the only way to end the warfare; military intervention and arming rebels are both mistakes. Refugees are already taking a strain on countries that border Syria; Turkey currently hosts 90,000 Syrian refugees in camps along the border.
At a rally in Istanbul, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that, “Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake.” He added that, “We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through intercontinental wars.When they say ‘if you want peace, prepare for war’, it means that when the time comes, war becomes the key to peace.”