Turkey and Syria: Border Violence Continues

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. The conflict in Syria has for the most part stayed in Syria, but a deadly attack now risks expanding the conflict. Yesterday, shells fired from Syria fell on a border town in Turkey, killing five civilians. Syria has admitted responsibility and apologized, but for two days now Turkey has responded by firing on targets inside Syria, and today, Turkey's parliament authorized military operations against Syria. Suat Kiniklioglu is a former deputy chairman of external affairs for Turkey's ruling AK Party.

Suat Kiniklioglu: I think it is a demonstration by the Turkish parliament that it is ready to act militarily if it needs to do so. The situation is extremely volatile. Turkey has 910 kilometers of a land border with Syria and in the absence of the United Nations Security Council resolution, and unwillingness by the United States and many of our European allies to act, Turkey has to take measures and project its deterrence capability to the Syrian regime.

Werman: For prime minister Erdogan, how politically difficult would it be for him to not respond to Syria's shelling?

Kiniklioglu: It would've been extremely damaging. There had been already criticism against the government that it was too soft, that the government on Syrian policy was not going anywhere and I think as the parliament has taken the decision to authorize the government and immediately after the Syrian regime apologizing for the incident, I think the government now has seen the rewards of its quick and determined action.

Werman: So just after the shelling, immediately after the shelling NATO held an emergency meeting. Do you know if Turkey was consulted during that meeting about what to do?

Kiniklioglu: Yes, of course, Turkey wanted to know its allies, what has happened, and draw the attention of NATO allies to the volatility and the threat that a NATO member is confronted with. But Turkey had no interest in calling for NATO to intervene at this time. We know the sensitivities within NATA, but there is an expectation that here in this country that after the US presidential election that there might be a more forthcoming US policy, but this is obviously unclear whether this will actually happen or not at this time.

Werman: So the fact that Turkey's parliament enacted this bill to use military force against Syria, I mean would Turkey be willing to go it alone over the next year?

Kiniklioglu: No, Turkey would not. Turkey has a historical baggage of being a ruler, of being an empire in the region, so it's not at all in the cards that Turkey would go alone in there, but Turkey will seek regional solutions, is already talking to neighbors and others who are interested in finding a regional solution for what transitioned in Syria. There is quite a bit of frustration that's no UN Security Council solution can be produced under the current positions. There seems to be a lack of interest for a coalition of the willing; it only leaves the option of the regional countries to find a solution to a very complicated issue called Syria.

Werman: So military action aside, meantime there are all these rising tensions inside Turkey over the number of refugees from Syria and that's about 90,000 people at this point. They're fleeing the fighting and crossing into Turkey. Is there still support in Turkey for the refugees fleeing the conflict?

Kiniklioglu: There have been some problems, but to be fair, housing 90,000 people is not an easy task without any external help. And I think overall the United Nations has confirmed that the situation is rather well, but it's rather difficult to manage both the refugee crisis and the direct threats emanating from the other side of the border simultaneously, and I think Turkey is going to continue to grapple with it if the situation is not returning to normality in Syria.

Werman: Suat Kiniklioglu as a former deputy chairman of external affairs for Turkey's ruling AK Party.