Turkey not interested in war with Syria: Erdogan


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that Turkey would never want to start a war and parliament had authorized foreign deployment of troops as a deterrent after a deadly Syrian shelling of southeast Turkey.

“We could never be interested in something like starting a war,” Erdogan told reporters at a news conference.

“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, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday Damascus “is not seeking any escalation with any of its neighbors, including Turkey,” after a deadly cross-border shelling incident.

“The Syrian government has a key interest in maintaining good neighborly relations with Turkey,” Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters.

“In case of border incidents between any two neighboring countries, governments should act wisely, rationally and reasonably,” he added.

He called on the Turkish government to cooperate with Syria on controls to “prevent armed groups from infiltrating through this border” to stage attacks in Syria.

The ambassador said a Turkish counter-strike Thursday morning against Syrian positions on the other side of the border wounded two Syrian military officials.

He confirmed that Damascus had presented its “deepest condolences” to Ankara for the shelling Wednesday that killed five Turkish civilians, but he added “it was not an apology.” He said that authorities were “seriously investigating the source” of these strikes.

But asked for an explanation for the Syrian shelling, he said an investigation into the incident had not been completed.

The ambassador announced that he had submitted to the Security Council president for October, Guatemala U.N. ambassador Gert Rosenthal, a letter explaining Syria’s position, as well as another asking the council to condemn the attacks on Aleppo.

The U.S. State Department, Meanwhile, said it considered Turkey’s response to Syrian mortar fire this week to be appropriate, proportionate and designed to deter any future violations of its sovereignty by Syria.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland appeared to be trying to help cool tensions.

“Our understanding is that the Turks have responded. The Turkish Parliament has also given the government the capacity to respond again if there are future such violations of Turkish sovereignty,” Nuland told reporters at her daily briefing.

“From our perspective, the response that Turkey made was appropriate, it also was designed to strengthen the deterrent effect so that these kinds of things don’t happen again, and it was proportional,” she said.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Turkey and Syria to exercise “maximum restraint”, his spokesman said.

“The secretary general calls on all concerned to abandon the use of violence, exercise maximum restraint and exert all efforts to move toward a political solution,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Ban reiterated his concern that violence from Syria’s long-running internal conflict could spill over into neighboring countries, Nesirky said.

Nesirky said the special U.N.-Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, had been in contact with Turkish and Syrian officials to encourage an easing of tensions.

The incident marked the first time Turkish civilians have been killed by Syrian fire since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011.