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October 04, 2012

UN Security Council Condemns Deadly Syrian Attack on Turkey

by VOA News

The U.N. Security Council has condemned a deadly Syrian artillery strike on a Turkish border town "in the strongest terms," while the Turkish military bombarded Syria for a second day in retaliation for the attack.

Syrian troops had shelled a residential area of the Turkish town of Akcakale on Wednesday, killing two women and three children. In a statement issued Thursday, the Security Council "demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated."

The Council statement also called on the Syrian government to "fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of its neighbors. It was a rare show of unity by the 15-nation body, which has long been divided about how to deal with Syria's 18-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, a longtime ally of Mr. Assad, called for a Council statement that was less critical of Syria, while Western powers opposed to the Syrian president wanted tougher language.

Turkish security sources and Syrian opposition activists said Turkish forces fired more artillery at Syrian targets early Thursday, following an initial bombardment shortly after Syrian shells hit Akcakale the previous day. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara's retaliatory strikes killed three Syrian soldiers near the border town of Tel Abyad. Syrian state media have not reported any casualties.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said the actions by Turkey, a fellow member of the NATO alliance, were "appropriate" and "proportional."

Speaking Thursday, she said the Turkish bombardments were "designed to strengthen the deterrent" effect against Syria.

The Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a law allowing its military to conduct further operations in Syria for a one-year period. After Thursday's vote, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has no intention of starting a war, but is determined to defend its borders and citizens. He said prior to Wednesday's incident, Syrian fire struck Turkish territory seven times without Ankara retaliating.

Turkish officials also said Syria issued an apology for the Akcakale killings and a promise that such an incident will not happen again.

The Turkish government's tough stance on Syria drew domestic criticism on Thursday. At least 1,000 people joined an anti-government protest in Istanbul, chanting slogans calling for peace and accusing the ruling AK Party of wanting war.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all parties in the region to exercise "maximum restraint" and "exert all efforts to move toward a political solution."

Also Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Syrian rebels killed 21 elite Syrian Republican Guards in Damascus province, in an ambush on an army minibus. Separately, troops loyal to President Assad shelled the northern city of Aleppo, a day after a series of bombings killed 48 people there.