May 21, 2013
Turkey strikes back at Syria after Erdogan warning
Turkey returned fire after Syrian mortar bombs landed in a field in southern Turkey today, the day after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus that the country would not shy away from war if provoked.
It was the fourth day of Turkish retaliation for firing by Syrian forces that killed five Turkish civilians on Wednesday.
The exchanges are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria's conflict, which began as a democracy uprising but has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones. They highlight how the crisis could destabilize the region.
NATO-member Turkey was once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but turned against him after his violent response to an uprising in which more than 30,000 people have died, according to the United Nations.
Turkey has nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory, has allowed rebel leaders sanctuary and has led calls for Assad to quit. Its armed forces are far larger than Syria's.
Erdogan said on Friday his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a "fatal mistake" by testing its resolve. Damascus has said its fire hit Turkey accidentally.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said today that parliament's authorization of possible cross-border military action was designed as a deterrent.
"From now on, if there is an attack on Turkey it will be silenced," he said in an interview with state broadcaster TRT.
Western powers have backed fellow-NATO member Turkey over Syria but shown little appetite for the kind of intervention that helped topple Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. Turkish calls for a safe zone in Syria would require a no-fly zone that NATO states are unwilling to police.