|President Bashar al-Assad of Syria|
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Tensions have escalated between Syria and Turkey following a mortar strike launched from Syria that killed five Turkish civilians in a residential district of the southeastern Turkish town of Akcakale. Turkey’s armed forces responded by firing on military targets inside Syria, while also deploying troops near the border.
The original incident, which claimed the lives of a woman and four children, has raised the specter of a wider conflagration that could force the US to deploy troops in the already volatile region. Further mortar rounds were later fired from Syria into Turkey, with no casualties reported.
“We hope that this doesn’t escalate into a broader conflict; we hope that the situation de-escalates,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said during a news conference.
The shelling “constitutes a cause of greatest concern for, and is strongly condemned by, all allies,” NATO ambassadors said in a statement drawn up during an emergency meeting held at the behest of Turkey, a NATO member.
“The alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law,” the statement added.
The meeting was held under Article 4 of the NATO charter which deals with situations where one member state feels its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat.
NATO defense ministers are due to meet in Brussels this week, where they are expected to discuss the Syria question. Being an Article 4 matter, it remains on the alliance’s agenda.
Syrian authorities have said they are investigating the source of the mortar fire, and have offered their condolences to the family of the deceased, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. Terrorist groups have been suggested as a source of the mortar fire. Some observers say it may have been an accident.
In line with NATO’s statement, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the strike, saying that Poland expresses its full solidarity with Turkey.
“We would like to emphasize strongly that the violation of another state’s territorial integrity is inadmissible,” said ministry spokesperson Marcin Bosacki.
Poland, itself a NATO member, called on Syrian authorities to adhere to international law and to take appropriate measures to restore security along the Syrian-Turkish border, in line with the NATO statement.
The Syrian regime is trying to quell an uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, with bloody consequences.
Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has helped organize a total of three evacuations from Syria in recent months, with the latest involving three Polish citizens.
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