Turkey continues Syria shelling, seeks approval for military action
Published on 4 Oct 2012 by RussiaToday

Turkey’s military has launched fresh artillery strikes against Syria. It had earlier fired on the war-torn state in retaliation to the shelling coming from the Syrian side which killed five Turkish civilians. Several Syrians were also reported dead as a result of the unprecedented military exchange.

Turkish parliament authorizes cross-border military operations in Syria

Turkey’s parliament has authorized cross-border military operations into Syria ‘when necessary.’ The move follows a cross-border mortar-shelling into Turkey which Damascus has apologized for.

Parliament voted 320-129 in favor of the bill, though the government was quick to eliminate the perception they country preparing for a unilateral military assault.

“The bill is not for war… It has deterrent qualities,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told reporters after the vote on Thursday.

He  stressed that Turkey’s priority was to act in conjunction with “international institutions” on Syria. Atalay further said the Syrian government “has admitted what it did and apologized. The deputy premier added that Syria had given its assurances “such an incident would not be repeated.”

The Turkish army has been shelling Syrian military positions since Wednesday in retaliation for shelling conducted from Syrian territory that killed five civilians.

The government-initiated debates in the Turkish parliament took place behind closed doors. The cabinet of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan claimed the Syrian military had launched an act of aggression against Turkey.

MP Muharrem Ince from the opposition Republican People’s party said the motion was dangerous as it had no clearly defined limits.

“You can wage a world war with [this motion],”Hürriyet Daily News cites him as saying.

Ince also lambasted the fact that the session took place behind closed doors.

“Why would you hide this from the people? Will it be your children that go to war? People are not going to know why they have sent their children to war,” he said.

On Wednesday at least three mortar bombs fired from Syria killed five civilians and wounded at least eight in the Turkish town of Akcakale. It was the second such mortar attack on the Turkish town since last Friday. Foreign Minister Davutoglu warned he would take action if there were a repeat in the wake of the shelling.

After a heated debate an urgent parliamentary session has opted to apply the new law.

Originally the bill targeted militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighting for independent Kurd state for the last three decades. The Kurds have bases in northern Iraq, de-facto not controlled by the government in Baghdad. The Turkish military has conducted a number of air and ground assaults on Kurdish positions in Iraq, most of them considered successful.

The debates around the move have sparked sharp negative reaction among the Turkish population. While a small group of anti-war protesters rallied outside the Turkish parliament in Ankara, a real anti-war storm has been initiated by Turkish and foreign activists on social networks both inside and outside of Turkey. The hashtag #savasahayir (no to war) quickly spread beyond Turkish borders into global social networking.

‘Turkey sould proceed with caution’

Former Pentagon official Michael Maloof said that Turkey would likely exercise caution, as they did when Syria shot down a Turkish fighter in June.

“If you look at the example of the shoot down of the aircraft, they did go to NATO, they did everything under Article 4 [which allows for consultations if a NATO state feels threatened]. They did it again as a result of this incident. I think it is in Turkey’s interest to proceed very, very cautiously. They don’t want to get into a full conflagration with the Syrians, and also you have a lot of background pressure, particularly from the Russians, for calm,” he said.

Maloof also stressed that the actual source of the mortar attack had not been confirmed, as the opposition could use such an assault to provoke a Turkish military response.

“I think there still needs to be an investigation of that [attack], but I think Turkey’s going to remain very cautious. I don’t think they are going to try to get NATO to launch [an attack] under Article 5 [NATO’s key collective defense principle]. Frankly I don’t think NATO would be in the position or have a desire to do that,” he said.

“Consequently, rather than push that issue and cause a potential rift between Turkey and NATO, I think Turkey could, conceivably under the authorization of its parliament, at least set up a buffer zone just inside Syria to prevent this from happening again,” Maloof continued.