Turkey on Wednesday asked the U.N. Security Council to take the “necessary action” to stop Syrian aggression and ensure that the government there respect Turkish territorial sovereignty after Syrian shells hit the Turkish town of Akcakale on Wednesday, killing five civilians, including a mother and her three children.
“This is an act of aggression by Syria against Turkey,” Turkish U.N. Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said in a letter to the president of the 15-nation Security Council, Guatemalan Ambassador Gert Rosenthal.
“It constitutes a flagrant violation of international law as well as a breach of international peace and security,” said the letter, which was obtained by Reuters.
U.N. diplomats said the 15-nation council was hoping to issue a non-binding statement later on Wednesday that would condemn the mortar attack and demand an end to violations of Turkey's territorial sovereignty.
“Turkey kindly requests for the Security Council to take necessary action to put an end to such acts of aggression and to ensure that Syria respects Turkey's sovereignty, territorial integrity and security,” Apakan wrote.
It was unlikely that the council would do anything more than issue a statement for the time being. The Security Council has been deadlocked on Syria's 18-month-long conflict for more than a year.
Meanwhile on the same day, NATO in an emergency meeting backed Turkey in its military response to the incident and called on Syria to abide by international law.
NATO ambassadors met under the alliance’s article 4, for consultations when a member state feels its territorial integrity is under threat.
“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 end flagrant violations of international law,” a statement said after the meeting was called at Ankara’s request.
Turkey on Wednesday bombed Syrian targets in response to Syrian mortar shelling, the prime minister’s office said.
“Our armed forces in the border region immediately retaliated against this heinous attack... by shelling the targets spotted by radar,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office said in a statement.
Syria said it is looking into the origin of the deadly attacks.
“The concerned parties are currently studying the origin of the fire against Turkey,” Information Omran Zoabi said.
said in a statement reported by state television.
“Syria offers it sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to our friends the Turkish people,” he added.
The United States condemned the “depraved” Syrian shelling and said it was monitoring the tense situation closely.
“This is yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
“We regret the loss of life in Turkey, a strong ally, and continue to monitor the situation closely.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced American outrage at Syria’s shelling of Turkish territories and described the situation as “very dangerous.”
“We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life on the Turkish side,” Clinton told reporters after Syrian shells hit the Turkish town of Akcakale.
She added it was a “very, very dangerous” situation, and would be talking later with Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu about “what the best way forward would be.”
“This also comes down to a regime that is causing untold suffering to its own people solely driven by their desire to stay in power,” Clinton said after talks in the State Department with Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov.
The United States has long insisted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should step down and end a 19-month rebellion that has claimed some 30,000 lives.
Damascus is “aided and abetted by nations like Iran that are standing firmly by the Assad regime regardless of the loss of life, the damage that is happening both inside Syria and now increasingly across Syria’s borders with their neighbors,” Clinton added.
All “responsible nations need to band together” to persuade the Assad regime to agree to a ceasefire and begin a political transition, she said.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier that the cross-border shelling was a clear violation of Turkey’s sovereignty.