Turkey says it won’t be drawn into Syrian conflict

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On Sunday, hundreds of people marched in the Turkish city of Antakya, near Reyhanli, protesting the government for its Syria policies and support for the rebels — which some believe has exacerbated the conflict in Syria. Turks in Hatay, the southern province where the town is located, complain that the rebels roam freely, disrupting calm in Turkey‘s border regions.

Witnesses said they saw Turks attacking Syrian registered cars in Reyhanli soon after Saturday’s attack, and some Syrians avoided going out in the streets. Mr. Erdogan asked residents in Reyhanli to remain calm and not “fall for the provocations.”

“The prime minister brought this on to us,” said a business owner who asked to be identified only by his first name, Mehmet. “We have no peace anymore. The Syrians are coming in and out, and we don’t know if they are bringing in explosives, taking out arms.”

Authorities so far have identified 35 of the dead, three of them as Syrians. Families began burying their loved ones in funerals on Sunday.

Earlier in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi rejected Turkey‘s charges, saying that “Syria didn’t and will never undertake such acts because our values don’t allow us to do this.”

He accused Turkey of destabilizing the border areas between the two countries by supporting the rebels, whom the regime has labeled terrorists.

“They turned houses of civilian Turks, their farms, their property into a center and passageway for terrorist groups from all over the world,” Mr. al-Zoubi said. “They facilitated and still are the passage of weapons and explosives and money and murders to Syria.”

Mr. al-Zoubi also branded Mr. Erdogan a “killer and a butcher,” adding that the Turkish leader “has no right to build his glory on the blood of the Turkish and Syrian people.”

Tensions had earlier flared between the Syrian regime and Turkey after shells fired from Syria landed on the Turkish side, killing five Turks, and prompting Germany, the Netherlands and the United States to send two batteries of Patriot air defense missiles each to protect their NATO ally.

Mr. Davutoglu said his country would hold those responsible for the bombings but had no immediate plans to involve its NATO allies.

The attacks come just a little over a week after Israel escalated its role in the Syria conflict by striking suspected shipments of advanced Iranian weapons in Syria.

Mr. Erdogan is flying to the U.S. for talks with President Obama next week. In the wake of the car bombs, both men could come under greater pressure to take action.

“It comes down to an existential struggle,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha center. “Those who oppose Assad really have to show that they mean it now.”

The U.S. has provided humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition, but has been reluctant to provide military aid, in part because al-Qaeda-linked militants are becoming increasingly influential in the armed opposition.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan alleged that Syria has been using chemical weapons, delivering them on at least 200 missiles, though he provided no evidence. Syria has denied using chemical weapons.

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