Turkey Assembly to Vote on Military Action Against Syria

Turkey’s parliament approved a motion allowing the government to order military action against Syria, after a shell fired across the border killed five Turks.

The parliament voted by 320 to 129 after a 3 1/2-hour debate in favor of a one-year mandate for the government to order military operations outside Turkey, according to the assembly’s press office. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s motion was backed by a nationalist opposition party, while the main opposition group opposed it.

Deputy premier Besir Atalay said after the vote that Syria had conveyed regrets, and assurances that the incident won’t be repeated, to United Nations officials. “Turkey’s message has been received,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The killings yesterday in the Turkish town of Akcakale highlight the risk that neighboring countries could be drawn into Syria’s civil war. Turkey, which retaliated with artillery attacks on Syrian military targets, has backed the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad and allowed them to use bases inside Turkey. It has deployed extra troops near the border since June, when Syrian forces downed a Turkish plane.

“Turkey has no intention to spark war, but the government felt the pressure to respond in the face of killings of its citizens, to avoid public reaction,” said Atilla Sandikli, a former army officer and chairman of the Istanbul-based think-tank Bilgesam.

‘Serious Threat’

The motion approved by parliament cites the artillery fire from Syria as a “serious threat to our national security.” It says that to prevent further threats Turkish troops can be “deployed and given missions in foreign countries,” without specifying Syria.

Turkish artillery units fired yesterday and today at Syrian military targets in response to the shelling. Fourteen Syrian soldiers were killed, Al Arabiya television said.

Atalay said the vote doesn’t give the government a mandate for war, and is intended as a deterrent. He said Turkey’s priority is to move in unison with the international community.

Concern that Turkey is being drawn into the Syrian conflict caused a slide in Turkish bonds and the lira. Both pared losses today as the government stressed that it’s not planning to attack. Yields on two-year bonds rose 4 basis points to 7.61 percent at 5:10 p.m. local time, and the currency gained 0.2 percent after a 0.7 percent drop yesterday.

Syrian Probe

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said authorities have begun an investigation into the source of the firing into Turkey, and offered condolences to the Turkish people, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Funerals were held today for the two women and three children who were killed. Authorities cordoned off the debris of the house where they died, and there were signs of shrapnel dotting neighboring buildings, television footage showed.

Turkey called an emergency meeting of its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies yesterday and wrote to the UN Security Council demanding action, as it sought to drum up international condemnation. The UN body has been unable to take steps against Assad because of vetoes by Russia and China.

Russia is “extremely concerned” by the military escalation, and wants Assad to declare publicly his commitment to preventing clashes on the Turkish border, Alexander Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Moscow.

‘Very Dangerous’

NATO called the Syrian action “a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security” of an alliance member. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the situation as “very, very dangerous” and pledged “strong support” for Turkey.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty, drafted at the start of the Cold War, considers an attack on one member as an attack on all, enabling a possible military response. It was invoked only once, in solidarity with the U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Turkey has invoked Article 4, allowing a country to convene a NATO meeting when its security is threatened.

The U.S. and most of its NATO allies have signaled they are reluctant to intervene militarily in the conflict in Syria, which began in March last year and has left about 30,000 dead according to opposition-supporting rights groups.

Turkey’s readiness to retaliate could benefit the Syrian rebels, said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a security analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara.

It may create a “de facto safe haven for rebels in the north of Syria, if Syria gets the message from Turkey and orders its forces to withdraw, or avoid firing toward areas close to the Turkish border,” he said. “The rebels have long been hoping for support from Turkey and now they have a psychological boost.”

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