Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at a news conference hours after Turkey’s Parliament approved a bill authorizing military operations against Syria. Earlier, Turkey fired on targets in Syria for a second day following a Syrian shelling that killed five civilians in the Turkish border town of Akcakale.
“We want peace and security and nothing else. We would never want to start a war,” Erdogan said, speaking from Akcakale. “Turkey is a country which is capable of protecting its people and borders. No one should attempt to test our determination on the issue.”
For its part, Syria admitted it was responsible for the shelling that killed five people and formally apologized for the deaths, another top Turkish official said.
The border violence has added a dangerous new dimension to Syria’s civil war, dragging Syria’s neighbors deeper into a conflict that activists say has already killed 30,000 people since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011.
“The bill is not for war,” Atalay said. “It has deterrent qualities.”
Cross-border tensions escalated Wednesday after a shell fired from inside Syria landed on a home in Akcakale, killing two women and three of their daughters and wounding at least 10 others, according to Turkish media.
The bill Thursday opened the way for unilateral action by Turkey’s armed forces inside Syria without the involvement of Turkey’s Western or Arab allies. Turkey has used a similar provision to repeatedly attack suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq.
The NATO military alliance, of which Turkey is a member, met at an emergency session in Brussels and condemned the attack on Turkey. NATO demanded “the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally” and urged the Syrian regime to “put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”
The Turkish response to the shelling was prompt — it fired salvos of artillery rounds deep inside Syria.