Turkey Warns Syrian Forces Not to Approach Border

June 26, 2012
By SEBNEM ARSU,  and , The New York Times

ISTANBUL — Buoyed by support from NATO allies, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday threatened a Turkish military response to any perceived threat from Syria along the troubled border following the disputed downing of a Turkish warplane.

The Turkish leader’s bellicose tone signaled no discernible easing of tensions between the two Mediterranean neighbors as ambassadors from the NATO alliance, desperate to avoid a wider conflict, held emergency talks in Brussels.

After the meeting, the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the alliance considered Syria’s actions in shooting down the Turkish warplane last Friday “unacceptable.”

In a unanimous statement, the NATO allies called the episode “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.”

“I would certainly expect that such an incident won’t happen again,” Mr. Rasmussen said at a news conference at alliance headquarters in Brussels. He added that NATO would closely follow developments and “if necessary, consult and discuss what else could be done.”

In Ankara, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey had revised its military rules of engagement toward Syria.

“Every military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria in a manner that constitutes a security risk or danger would be considered as a threat and would be treated as a military target,” he said in a speech to lawmakers attended by Arab diplomats.

“From here, we warn the Syrian regime not to make any mistakes, not to test Turkey’s decisiveness and wisdom,” Mr. Erdogan said.

“If there is anyone who could not understand this up until today, we would and will prove in the most clear and determined way that Turkey cannot be challenged,” he said.

While Syria maintains the plane was brought down well within its airspace, Turkey says the two-seat F-4 fighter plane was attacked over international waters after straying briefly into Syrian space.

“Our plane was targeted not by mistake but deliberately, entirely in an act of hostility,” Mr. Erdogan said. “At a time, place and method defined by itself, Turkey will make use of its rights that derive from international law and firmly take necessary steps against this injustice.” He did not elaborate on what those steps might be.

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/world/middleeast/turkey-seeks-nato-backing-in-syria-dispute.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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