Turkey retaliated against Syria on Wednesday after a shell fired from Syria killed more than five civilians in a Turkish border town. The move is the most serious escalation of international tensions since the Syrian uprising began 19 months ago.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office released a brief statement about the attack, saying that the Turkish army shelled unspecified Syrian targets in the retaliation effort, reports The Washington Post. Erdogan’s statement read:
“Our armed forces in the border region responded immediately to this abominable attack in line with their rules of engagement; targets were struck through artillery fire against places in Syria identified by radar.”
Turkey has also summoned its allies in NATO to an emergency meeting to discuss options on how best to respond to Syria’s attack. US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement before Turkey’s retaliation to ask for restraint and to also warn how the incident highlighted the risks the Syrian conflict is posing in the region. Ki-moon stated:
“Syria’s conflict is threatening not only the security of the Syrian people but increasingly causing harm to its neighbors.”
The BBC notes that Turkey has been hit by fire from Syria multiple times since the conflict began, but Wednesday’s incident was by far the most serious.
Following the incident, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu contacted the UN Secretary General, the UN’s Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and also NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Rasmussen spoke with Turkey’s foreign minister to assure that he strongly condemned the incident, and would continue to follow any new developments in the region “closely and with great concern.”
While NATO has no intention of intervening in the Syrian conflict, they are prepared to defend Turkey if it is necessary. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also released a statement on the incident, stating, “We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across their border… and regretful of the loss of life on the Turkish side.”