BRUSSELS — NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Oct. 9 against the dangers of the conflict in Syria escalating, saying alliance member Turkey had shown commendable restraint in response to shelling of its border area.
“I would like to commend the Turkish government for the restraint it has shown in its response to the completely unacceptable Syrian attacks,” Rasmussen said as he went into a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting.
“Obviously Turkey has a right to defend herself within international law,” he said, noting that the alliance too has “all necessary plans in place to protect and to defend Turkey if necessary.
“We hope it won’t be necessary, we hope that both countries will show restraint and avoid an escalation of the crisis,” he added.
Reports in Ankara on Oct. 9 said Turkey’s top military commander Gen. Necdet Ozel had inspected troops in southeastern Hatay province near the Syrian border, a day after a Syrian shell landed in a nearby town.
Syrian shells last week killed five people in a Turkish border village, sparking a series of retaliatory strikes and a firm message of support from NATO for Turkey.
The Turkish parliament on Oct. 4 gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.
Officials said Oct. 8 that the Syrian conflict was not on the defense ministers’ agenda but that the issue was likely to be discussed informally.
Turkey, as an alliance member, has the right to invoke military help in response to an attack on its territory under Article V but has so far invoked only Article IV, which involves consultations.