via Lobe Log
McClatchy reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is warning the Syrian government that “we are not only not enthusiastic about war, we are also not far from war”:
One day after winning blanket authority [from the Turkish Parliament] to send forces into Syria, Turkey’s prime minister warned Friday that his country is “not far from war” and said that it would be a “deadly mistake” for the Syrian government to test Turkey’s will.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the comments as the Turkish military fired shells into Syria for the third straight day – retaliation for a mortar shell that landed just inside Turkish territory in Hatay province, according to the provincial governor.
Though Turkey has allowed the “Free Syrian Army” — an umbrella command for dozens of militias — and other anti-regime groups to operate out of the country and has given shelter to tens of thousands of refugees, its government has been reluctant to take a more proactive role in the crisis.
As a NATO member, an attack on Turkey by Syria would be construed as an attack on NATO, and necessitate discussion of military operations, operations that NATO has so far said it does not envision itself undertaking in Syria as it did over Libya last year.
A White House spokesman recently stated that “[the] US stands behind Turkey as they take action because we believe that action is appropriate.” The UN and NATO have convened special sessions to discuss Turkey’s proposed course of action here on out.
The shelling is the most serious incident that has occurred between the two countries since a Turkish reconnaissance aircraft was apparently downed by Syrian AA fire. Turkish media reports that Assad has, in the wake of the shelling, ordered his forces to observe a demarcation line for themselves to avoid antagonizing the Turks further by violating the border.
Though the Turkish Parliament has approved the dispatch of Turkish forces into Syria, “thousands” of demonstrations marched in Istanbul in protest over the vote.
McClatchy also noted that developments with respect to Syria and Turkey’s Kurdish populations — namely, the paramilitary organizations among them seeking an autonomous Kurdistan — may further antagonize Ankara. These developments come as the Turkish Army undertakes a renewed campaign against anti-government PKK forces:
Mona Yacoubian of the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank, said the Kurdish dimension of the Syrian uprising “is going to gain in prominence” as Assad’s military loses control of territory. She said the assertion of control by Kurdish nationalists tied to the PKK, if it leads to more attacks against Turkish targets, would cross a Turkish “red line.”
With Erdogan’s new war powers, Turkey will “feel compelled to respond,” she said.
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