NATO says it stands by Turkey, urges Syria to stop aggressive acts against its ally
Turkey fired back at Syria late on Wednesday after Syrian mortars killed five people and wounded eight in a Turkish town near the border.
NATO's North Atlantic Council has convened tonight for an urgent meeting upon the request of Turkey, to discuss the shelling of the town of Akcakale.
“The most recent shelling on 3 October 2012, which caused the death of five Turkish citizens and injured many, constitutes a cause of greatest concern for, and is strongly condemned by, all Allies,” NATO said in a statement.
“In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington Treaty, the Alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an Ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”
According to officials the meeting has been held under article 4 of NATO’s code, concerning consultations when a member state feels territorial integrity is under threat.
Meanwhile, the White House used the incident to once again put pressure on the regime of Bashar Assad, urging him to step down.
"All responsible nations must make clear that it is long past time for Assad to step aside, declare a ceasefire and begin the long-overdue political transition process," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on Wednesday.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the act, saying “we are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border.”
Turkey prepares for military ops in Syria
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said "Turkey is a sovereign country, there was an attack towards Turkey's mainland and our citizens lost their lives. Without a doubt, there is a response to this in international law.”
"Turkey is a NATO member. Certain NATO treaty articles bring about certain liabilities should one of its members be attacked in any way. We will not act without reason, but when our citizens die and our mainland is attacked, we will protect our rights to the end,” Arinc promised.
Turkish media has reported that country’s parliament is preparing a bill for Syria similar to the one that allowed the Turkish military to operate in northern Iraq on search and destroy missions against Kurdish militants.
The Turkish parliament is expected to discuss the bill on Thursday.
Meanwhile Turkey asked the UN Security Council to take “necessary action” to stop Syrian aggression and make Syria respect the territorial sovereignty of other states.
"This is an act of aggression by Syria against Turkey," Turkish UN Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said in a letter to the president of the Security Council, which was obtained by Reuters. "It constitutes a flagrant violation of international law as well as a breach of international peace and security."
Damascus offered condolences to the Turkish people and said it is investigating the incident, also stating it respects the sovereignty of neighboring countries and urged "states and governments" to act wisely and rationally, according to Reuters.
A woman and four children from the same family were killed after at least three bombs fired from Syria hit a residential suburb of the Turkish border town of Akcakale, on Wednesday. At least eight others were wounded. This is the second mortar attack on the Turkish town since last Friday. Back then, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, said he would take action if there were a repeat.
Middle East expert Jeremy Salt from Turkey’s Bilkent University, poured doubt on the accepted version of events, saying the incident could have been an intentional escalation of the conflict. “The reports we’ve had so far are very sketchy – we don’t know if it was fired deliberately or accidentally. We don’t even know who fired it. There has been no proof that it was the Syrian army that fired it,” he told RT.
Some states, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia have long been anxious for Turkey to take action against Syria, Salt added.