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Turkey Backs Mandate for Military Action Against Syria

Thursday, 04 Oct 2012 09:39 AM

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s parliament approved a motion allowing the government to order military action in Syria, after a mortar bomb fired across the border killed five Turks.

The parliament voted by 320 to 129 after a 3 1/2-hour debate in favor of a one-year mandate for the government to order military operations outside Turkey, according to the assembly’s press office.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s motion was backed by a nationalist opposition party, while the main opposition group opposed it.

The killings yesterday in the Turkish town of Akcakale highlight the risk that neighboring countries could be drawn into Syria’s civil war.

Turkey, which retaliated with artillery attacks on Syrian military targets, has backed the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad and allowed them to use bases inside Turkey. It has deployed extra troops near the border since June, when Syrian forces downed a Turkish plane.

“Turkey has no intention to spark war, but the government felt the pressure to respond in the face of killings of its citizens, to avoid public reaction,” said Atilla Sandikli, a former army officer and chairman of the Istanbul-based think- tank Bilgesam.

Turkish artillery units fired yesterday and today at Syrian military targets in response to the cross-border shelling. Fourteen Syrian soldiers were killed, Al Arabiya television said.

Deterrent Measure

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said after the vote that it doesn’t give the government a mandate for war, and is intended as a deterrent. He said Turkey’s priority is to move in unison with the international community.

“Turkey’s message has been received,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, according to NTV television.

Concern that Turkey is being drawn into the Syrian conflict pushed yields on benchmark Turkish two-year bonds up the most in a month. They rose 10 basis points to 7.67 percent at 3 p.m. today. The lira extended losses, bringing its decline since the Syrian shelling to about 1 percent.

The motion approved by parliament cites the artillery fire from Syria as a “serious threat to our national security” and says Turkish troops can be “deployed and given missions in foreign countries” in response.

Syrian Probe

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said authorities have begun an investigation into the source of the firing into Turkey, and offered condolences to the Turkish people, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Turkey also called an emergency meeting of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and wrote to the U.N. Security Council demanding action, as it sought to drum up international condemnation. The U.N. body has been unable to take action against Assad because of vetoes by Russia and China.

Russia is “extremely concerned” by the military escalation and urges restraint from both Turkey and Syria, Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today condemned the attacks on Turkey and told reporters in Berlin that “we stand at Turkey’s side.”

NATO yesterday called the Syrian action “a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security” of an alliance member.

Secretary of  State Hillary Clinton described the situation as “very, very dangerous” and pledged “strong support” for Turkey.

The United States and most of its NATO allies have signaled they are reluctant to intervene militarily in the conflict in Syria, which began in March last year and has left about 30,000 dead according to opposition-supporting rights groups.

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Turkey’s parliament approved a motion allowing the government to order military action in Syria, after a mortar bomb fired across the border killed five Turks.
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