Turkey steps up Syria strikes, says will defend borders
By Jonathon Burch and Murad Sezer
AKCAKALE, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkey stepped up retaliatory artillery strikes on a Syrian border town on Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers, while its parliament approved further military action in the event of another spillover of the Syrian conflict.
Seeking to unwind the most serious cross-border escalation in its 18-month-old crackdown on dissent, Damascus apologized through the United Nations for shelling which killed five civilians in southeast Turkey on Wednesday and said it would not happen again, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said.
Syria's staunch ally Russia said it had received assurances from Damascus that the mortar strike had been a tragic accident.
But Turkey's government said "aggressive action" against its territory by Syria's military had become a serious threat to its national security and parliament approved the deployment of Turkish troops beyond its borders if needed.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the fundamental aim of parliament's mandate was as a deterrent.
"We as Turkey just want peace and security in our region. We could never be interested in something like starting a war. The consequences of war are plain to see in Iraq and Afghanistan," Erdogan told reporters at a news conference in Ankara.
He said the shelling was the eighth attack of its kind from Syria, but that the previous incidents had only caused material damage and Damascus had ignored Ankara's warnings on the issue.
"The Turkish Republic is a state capable of defending its citizens and borders. Nobody should try and test our determination on this subject," he added. Continued...