Turkey ‘may consider’ military operation into Syria to protect tomb of Süleyman Şah
The tomb is located in the governorate of Aleppo, approximately 30 kilometers from the Turkish border on the Euphrates river, and belongs to Süleyman Şah, the founder of the Seljuk Empire in Anatolia. HÜRRİYET photoAs if Turkey’s political squabbles had not already reached a fever pitch over graft scandals and the deaths of protesters, the din increased March 20 as the opposition and the government traded barbs over a possible operation to protect Turkey’s Süleyman Şah tomb in Syria.
“The tomb of Süleyman Şah is a rare place, which is Turkish land outside Turkey’s own borders. There is no difference between the tomb and Ankara or Sinop. The soil where it is located is Turkish soil. Our armed forces are ensuring security and protecting it,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said, responding to earlier statements by Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
“Does Kılıçdaroğlu want us to be indifferent if there is an attack there? Is he saying, ‘Act as if nothing has occurred?’” Yıldız asked.
On March 19, Kılıçdaroğlu called on Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel “not to embark on an adventure” with a military intervention in Syria to protect the tomb.
Speaking to Samanyolu Haber television, Kılıçdaroğlu said reports about possible attacks on the tomb had started to appear in newspapers as the March 30 local elections approach.
“It is 30 kilometers from our border. He [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] could decide to move the army into Syria before the elections. I’d like to address the chief of General Staff: Don’t send Turkey on an adventure. Especially when there is a shady prime minister in charge, who also jailed the previous chief of General Staff as a terrorist,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Kılıçdaroğlu argued that no Syrian group had attacked the tomb, but that “a provocation can happen.” He said he received “some unconfirmed information” and warned that “everyone should be very careful.”
“As of now, there has been no [move on] our soldiers or our land there. But in the event of such a threat, we are ready to take all sorts of precautions,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters in the eastern province of Van on March 14.
Clashes between opposition groups the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have intensified in the region, with the al-Qaeda-affiliated ISIL recently taking control of a nearby town. The tomb sits 25 kilometers from the Turkey-Syria border.
The tomb for Süleyman Şah, the founder of the Seljuk Empire in Anatolia who died in 1086, is located in the governorate of Aleppo. Two Turkish F-16 fighter jets are reportedly on duty to protect the tomb, from either Syrian government forces or ISIL.
Yıldız, meanwhile, said that although an operation was a possibility, it would be limited in scope. “I can say clearly that there will be no [operation] if there is not an attack there. But if it is needed to defend our own land, we will do it. An operation for that place may be in question if necessary, but it won’t be a wide-scale operation.”