Turkish gov’t puts Syrian border troops on red alert
ANKARA / MARDİN
‘We urge the Syrian regime not to make a mistake and test Turkey’s determinacy and capacity,’ says PM Erdoğan as Kuwaiti lawmakers (inset) applaud. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
The Turkish government has instructed its army to intercept any potential security risk posed by Syrian security forces along its land and sea border, in response to the downing of a Turkish jet by Syria in international airspace. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also described the al-Assad regime as a “clear and present danger to Turkey’s security” in the wake of the incident.
“After this attack, we have entered into a new stage. The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed. Any risk posed by Syria on the Turkish border, any military element that could pose a threat, will be considered a threat and treated as a military target,” Erdoğan said in his parliamentary group meeting yesterday. The comments are his first public statements on the issue after it was clarified that a Turkish RF4-E Phantom jet had been shot down by Syria.
‘Turkey’s wrath is as strong as its friendship’
“We urge the Syrian regime not to make a mistake and test Turkey’s determinacy and capacity. … Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb. … Everybody should know that Turkey’s wrath is as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable.” A Turkish unarmed reconnaissance jet that was performing a training flight over the Mediterranean Sea was shot down by Syria 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast in international airspace. Syria had claimed the incident took place in Syrian airspace.
Five Syrian helicopters recently violated Turkish airspace, but no action was taken against them other than issuing diplomatic notes. Some minor shooting incidents have even taken place without being made into an issue between the two countries, a Turkish diplomat told the Hürriyet Daily News. “After now, if they occur, they will surely become a matter,” the source said. Erdoğan underlined that Turkey would also use its rights stemming from international laws. “Turkey will use its rights born out of international law with determination and take the necessary steps by determining the time, place and method by itself in the face of this unfairness. This is what I want to stress.”
According to diplomatic sources, this refers to Article 51 of the 7th Chapter of the U.N. Charter, which gives countries the right to self-defense in the event of a foreign attack. The prime minister also challenged the Syrian administration’s argument that it shot down the jet in its own airspace. “Our plane was targeted on purpose and in a hostile way and not as a result of a mistake. The attitude of the Syrian officials following the incident is the most concrete evidence that our jet was attacked on purpose. The harassing fire on our Casa-type plane during the search and rescue operations is the most palpable evidence of this intent.”
‘Turkey’s support will continue’
Despite his strongly worded statements that also mentioned increasing military measures against Syria, Erdoğan said they would not fall into the traps of what he called “war provocateurs,” although “this does not mean we’ll stand idle with our hands tied.”
He also vowed that Turkey would continue to support the Syrian people until they get rid of the “blood-shedding dictator and his gang.”
Turkey has no eye on any neighbors’ soil and has no intention to intervene in their internal affairs, Erdoğan said, emphasizing that the security of Anatolia was very much dependent on the security of Damascus, once ruled by the Ottoman Empire until the early 20th century. “Today when we are talking about Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, and Homs, we are not talking about political gain, but in the name of the bloodshed of our brothers.”
TURKEY BEGINS DEPLOYMENT
MARDIN - Doğan News Agency
Turkey has deployed a large number of military vehicles to the Syrian border. The shipment included 15 armored tanks, in addition to long-distance guns and other military vehicles. The convoy was heavily guarded as it moved toward the border in the event of an attack by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members. Military sources couldn’t immediately confirm the report. Military units reportedly increased security measures on the border following recent events that have strained bilateral relations. In a related development in the region, 13 zones near Hakkari, Diyarbakır and Şırnak have been declared temporary militray security zones. Diyarbakır Governor’s Office said yesterday in a written satement that no civilians will be allowed in the mentioned regions between July 6 and Oct. 6 since shooting drills will be exercised in those areas.