News / Middle East

Heightened Tensions Raise Stakes for Turkey, Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the cockpit of Hurkus (Freebird), Turkey's first locally produced military training plane, outside Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2012 (AP).Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the cockpit of Hurkus (Freebird), Turkey's first locally produced military training plane, outside Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2012 (AP).
x
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the cockpit of Hurkus (Freebird), Turkey's first locally produced military training plane, outside Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2012 (AP).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the cockpit of Hurkus (Freebird), Turkey's first locally produced military training plane, outside Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2012 (AP).
Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL - Turkey's prime minister announced toughened steps against Syria Tuesday in response to the downing of a Turkish military jet by Syrian forces  last Friday.  

Reacting to the shoot-down, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced any Syrian armed forces moving close to the 900-kilometer long shared border could be considered a military target.  

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says the move is purely defensive.

"We just wish to defend our borders and we don't want any kind of incursions," said Unal. "Last month there were five different and separate airspace violations by Syrian helicopters and there [are] also other negative developments affecting the daily situation on our side of the border."

But the consequences of Ankara's threat could be far reaching for Damascus, says international relations expert Soli Ozel of Kadir Has University. He says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has a difficult choice.

"I suppose the next step would be the Turkish troops will be shooting at them," said Ozel. "And if the Syrians abide by this, if they take it seriously and they don't come close to our borders, then maybe this can [be] considered as the beginning of a safety zone."

Syrian rebels and opposition groups have been calling for the creation of safe havens in Syria for refugees and rebels alike. Erdogan tentatively  proposed the idea last December.  Ankara has been in the forefront of supporting the Syrian opposition, although it has strenuously denied arming or facilitating the arming of rebels fighting pro-Assad forces.  

But Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and head of the Istanbul-based research institute Edam, says the downing of a Turkish jet may well accelerate a change in that policy.

"There are many indications that Turkey is turning a blind eye to the shipment of weapons through Turkish territory to the Syrian opposition if not more," said Ulgen. "And it will certainly increase even if the government's official position will not change."

But political observers say Ankara's increasingly robust stance against Damascus has met with a skeptical response by much of the Turkish public.  Before the shooting down of the military plane, opinion polls found the overwhelming majority opposed interfering in Syria.

Even after the shoot-down, there have been few displays of Turkish public anger against Damascus.

Semih Idiz is diplomatic correspondent for the Milliyet newspaper.

"By talking to the proverbial taxi driver or barber whatever, the question is 'Why did we come to this point with Syria?'  'What is our interest in this, why are we in a situation where we might go to war when there is nothing that directly influences Turkey's interest?'  There are questions in the public whether the policy being pursued is a correct one," said Idiz.

Erdogan on Tuesday strongly condemned the media for its continuing questioning of why the downed Turkish warplane was flying so close to Syrian airspace.

On the streets of Istanbul, questions about the circumstances of the shoot-down, along with concerns about war, are in the forefront of people's minds.

When asked about the prime minister's stance towards Syria, one man said:

"What happened is normal. We sent our warplane to Syria and they shoot it down, what do they expect?"  he said.

But another man was more supportive of the prime minister.

"I guess he is right, because they attacked us.  We say if you come near us, we can also do the same thing to you. We are not attacking them but we are just warning them. But war is not good a thing for both countries," he said.

Erdogan has said he is not looking for a war with Syria.

International relations expert Soli Ozel says the prime minister is walking a difficult tightrope of backing efforts to bring down the Assad government but at the same time wanting to avoid conflict.

"If the Syrians challenge you, then you are in a bind, but that's why, the ambivalence right now, you say you are going to be responding, but you don't specify exactly when you are going to be responding and under what conditions," said Ozel.

Since Erdogan's Tuesday speech, the Turkish army has moved up armor and artillery to the Syrian border, and according to media reports, its forces are on high alert.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Dr Kranknstein from: USA
June 28, 2012 12:02 AM
Can we just build a wall around the whole Middle East?

In Response

by: Anonymous
June 28, 2012 4:52 PM
you can built a huge wall around your mind.


by: Sam from: Australia
June 27, 2012 6:55 PM
He thinks he's Maverick, but he looks like a Goose!


by: bluesquid from: canada
June 27, 2012 6:21 PM
Yesterday was Libya and today is Syria, tomorrow they will want Iran and then what? It’s the people who suffers and dies. Abolish NATO and wars for profit.


by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN
June 27, 2012 5:34 PM
If Turkey wants to lose another plane then go ahead and fly over Syria again. Erdogan did nothing as Israel put his fellow citizens face down and executed them. They were unarmed and on the open seas. His NATO allies also did nothing. Maybe Erdogan needs some adult supervision courtsey of Assad. Erdogan is a disgrace and should be overthrown for allowing Israel to slaughter Turkish citizens.



by: Joe Zrnchik from: Highland, Indiana
June 27, 2012 5:24 PM
What would Israel have done to an Iranian plane that invaded their airspace? What did Israel do to unarmed Turkish citizens on the open seas? Answer: A face-down bullet in the back of the head execution style. And this was in open waters. What did NATO or the US do then for their Turkish NATO ally? NOTHING!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid