NATO will defend Turkey from being attacked by Syria as tensions continue to escalate between the two countries, the head of the military alliance announced today.
NATO ambassadors threw their support behind Turkey in an emergency meeting after Syrian shells struck a border town in Turkey killing five civilians last week.
The two neighbours have repeatedly exchanged fire since then, the most serious outbreak of cross-border violence since Syria’s revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 18 months ago.
The 28-member military alliance now has plans in place to defend Turkey against attack from Syria if necessary.
But Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that he hoped the two countries would find a way to stop relations from reaching that stage.
He told a meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers in Brussels: ‘We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary.’
On Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the ‘worst-case scenarios’ were now playing out in Syria and that Turkey would do everything necessary to protect itself. Gul said that the violence in Turkey’s southern neighbour, where a revolt against Assad has evolved into a civil war that threatens to draw in regional powers, could not go on indefinitely.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday the escalation of the conflict along the Turkey-Syria border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon were ‘extremely dangerous’.
The Turkish army fired back on Monday for a sixth day after a shell from Syria flew over the border and has bolstered its presence along the 560-mile frontier in recent days.
Rasmussen commended the Turkish government for its restraint, adding he hoped the parties would avoid an escalation of the crisis.
‘Obviously Turkey has a right to defend herself within international law,’ he said. ‘I would add to that that obviously Turkey can rely on NATO solidarity.’