Turkish military sends more weapons to tense Syrian border amid heated political debate
GAZİANTEP / ANKARA
Turkish soldiers walk to their position on the Turkish side of the border in Suruc, Turkey, Friday, June 26, 2015, near the Syrian town of Ayn al-Arab or Kobani. AP PhotoAs Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants plant mines on the Syrian border facing Turkey, the Turkish military has reinforced its presence on the other side of the barbed wire border amid a fresh political debate between the government and the opposition on taking military action in its neighbor.
Heavy weaponry and armored vehicles from the 5th Armored Brigade and personnel were sent to the southeastern province of Kilis on June 30, agencies reported.
Rocket batteries were placed in the hills of Karkamış in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, clearly overlooking the Syrian side and intensifying the military’s gaze across the border.
The alarm came after ISIL militants were observed planting mines between Karkamış and Carablus on the Syrian side. The militants used caterpillars to dig ditches, apparently to prevent armored vehicles crossing the border.
Turkish soldiers have also dug ditches on the Turkish side of the border in the Nusaybin town of Mardin, right across from Qamishli in Syria.
The posturing comes at a time when Turkey’s political parties are locked in talks to form a coalition government, after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority in the June 7 general election.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said the necessity of forming a new government does not constrain the incumbent AKP government from “protecting the country’s interests,” reiterating that Turkey is “prepared to take all necessary measures to tackle security threats on its borders.”
In a speech delivered to his party’s newly elected deputies at a parliamentary group meeting on June 30, Davutoğlu underlined that the party had managed to overcome various crises while always ensuring stability in the country since it first came to power in 2002.
“I am saying this because some [people] are suggesting that some decisions cannot be made until the new government is formed. No, we will take and implement whatever is the most correct decision,” he said.
His remarks were apparently a response to Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who strongly warned the government against any military intervention in Syria, urging the AKP government not to forget that they are “an outgoing government.”
“We cannot remain indifferent in the face of developments beyond our borders. We would make the required decisions even if there was just one second to accomplish it, not a year, a day, or a single moment,” Davutoğlu said.
“When we look at Syria, we do not see Kurds, Arabs, Alawites, or Sunnis. We only see the neighboring Syrian people. That being the case, if some people attempt to redraw the map, we will display an open stance,” he said. “We won’t let Turkey be exposed to a fait accompli or be dragged into adventures.”
The prime minister’s remarks came after the National Security Council (MGK), chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 29, expressed concern about the threat of “terrorism” from the Syrian border region, as domestic media reported that Ankara was considering military steps to counter security risks from Syria.
“As the head of the CHP, I am warning them not to drag Turkey into an adventure; it would have a high cost. And the people on the street, not the politicians, would be paying the bill,” said CHP head Kılıçdaroğlu in remarks published in the June 29 edition of daily Hürriyet.
On June 30, Kılıçdaroğlu also addressed his party group at parliament, once again questioning why Turkey should intervene in Syria.
“I would like to address Mr. Davutoğlu, who heads a temporary government: Other people should not speak on your behalf,” he said, referring to recent statements by Erdoğan on protecting the country.
“So we will go into Syria. Why should we go into Syria? For what reason? Isn’t the current bloodshed there enough?” Kılıçdaroğlu asked.
“Terrorist organizations have become our neighbors because of your incorrect policies,” he added.
Meanwhile, the United States, which is backing the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish forces with air strikes in the fight against ISIL, has no “solid evidence” that Jordan and Turkey are considering seeking a buffer zone in Syria, the State Department said on June 29.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there were “serious logistical challenges” in creating such buffer zones, but he had not seen any concrete evidence that either Jordan or Turkey, which both share borders with war-torn Syria, were considering such a zone.
A senior outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) commander, Murat Karayılan, told a Kurdish news website the group would retaliate if the Turkish military intervened in Kurdish areas of Syria.
Turkish officials say the PKK is linked to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing, The People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is fighting against ISIL.