Ankara on Syria alert as one killed at tense border

Ankara on Syria alert as one killed at tense border

Ankara on Syria alert as one killed at tense border

AA photo

Already on edge amid Syrian Kurds’ plans to create a temporary autonomous government to administer the north of the Arab republic, Ankara is watching its headaches grow on its southern border amid rising tensions that were punctuated by the July 22 killing of a civilian who was trying to enter Syria from Turkey.

The shooting was announced in a statement posted on the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on July 23, marking the latest in a string of fatal incidents along the lengthy border with Turkey’s southern neighbor where the tension has escalated each day, prompting the TSK to make frequent statements.

The fatal incident came days after Ankara warned against the repercussions of a fait accompli or a quest to create a de facto situation in Syria, as speculation has been growing that the capture of Ras al-Ayn by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish party with alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), will eventually lead to the creation of an autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Syria.

As a lengthy Cabinet meeting was continuing late July 22, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç emerged from the meeting to respond to reporters’ questions, giving a remarkably elaborative answer when asked whether Turkey would use its “military force trump card,” in the event that Kurds pushed for autonomy in the north.

Turkey will not “condone the exploitation” of the fragile situation in Syria by certain groups through the power vacuum that exists in the country, he said, adding that Turkey would take every precaution to ensure its citizens’ safety and border security.

“The Turkish Armed Forces are reciprocating immediately when needed in accordance with the rules of engagement. All our institutions have been swiftly moving simultaneously, and necessary precautions are being taken against all sorts of threats aimed at our country’s border security and our citizens’ safety,” Arınç said.

According to the statement posted on the TSK’s official website, eight civilians were warned by whistles as they were trying to illegally cross into Syria. The group, however, did not heed the warning and instead fired around 10-15 gunshots without aiming at a specific target. The border patrols responded with fire in line with the rules of engagement, killing one person from the eight-person group, the TSK said, without elaborating on the nationality of the civilians who were trying to pass from Hatay into northwestern Syria.

“Until this day, we have expressed outright that we will not accept de facto administrations by any ethnic or sectarian group in Syria. No matter from which ethnic origin, religion or sect, we desire the formation of a legitimate, democratic and Constitution-based system that embraces all Syrians. Departing from this mentality, we support the rapid efforts for a political solution to the problem in accordance with the legitimate demands of the Syrian people,” he said.

“While efforts in the political field continue, it is obvious that creating de facto situations in certain regions through fait accomplis, will have highly negative results for Syria’s unity and solidarity,” Arınç said, emphasizing that Turkey, which is in favor of the formation of a democratic administration that preserves the country’s territorial integrity, is well aware of the “delicacy” of the issue.

According to another statement also posted on the website on July 23, a huge group composed of 800-1,000 persons with around 100 vehicles approached the border from the Syrian side for the purposes of smuggling on July 22.

In order to disperse the group, the Armed Forces used seven gas bombs in a 3.5-hour fight, during which time the army fired 125 warning shots into the air.