Turkish troops returned fire after a mortar shell from Syria landed in southern Turkey, a state-run news agency reported on Friday. Earlier, Prime Minister Erdogan warned Syria not to make a "fatal mistake" by launching further attacks.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned on Friday his country was “not far” from war with Syria as further cross-border skirmishes were reported.
In a belligerent speech to a crowd in Istanbul, Erdogan warned the Assad government it would be making a fatal mistake if it picked a fight with Turkey.
“We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either,” Erdogan said in his speech. "Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake.”
Not long after he spoke, the state-run Anatolian news agency reported the Turkish military had returned fire after a mortar bomb fired from Syria landed in the countryside in southern Turkey.
Earlier this week Turkey had bombarded targets in Syria in response to shelling that killed five Turkish civilians further east along the border.
With skirmishes continuing into a fourth day, concerns are growing that the two countries could be heading for all-out conflict despite Turkey insisting it does not want a war.
“Either Syria isn’t getting the message or its troops are incorrigible but the overall picture is worrying,” said FRANCE 24’s Turkey correspondent Jasper Mortimer. “While Syria, Turkey and the world say they don’t want the violence to escalate, the fact is it could escalate very quickly.”
On Thursday Turkey's parliament voted to allow cross-border military operations in Syria, sharply escalating tensions between the two former allies.
At the United Nations, the Security Council condemned the original Syrian attack and demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately.
The United States has said it stands by its NATO ally’s right to defend itself against aggression spilling over from Syria’s war.
The cross-border violence was the most serious so far in the conflict, now in its 19th month, and underscored how it could flare across the region.
The head of Syria's main opposition coalition on Friday accused the Damascus regime of trying to spread the unrest to neighboring countries, branding the deadly shelling of a Turkish town "a regime plan".
"This incident was a Syrian regime plan," Syrian National Council Chief Abdel Basset Sayda told reporters at a press conference in Istanbul.
"The regime is trying to export the Syrian crisis. He (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) thinks, that way, he can transform the conflict into a regional one."
Turkey, once an Assad ally and now a leading voice in calls for him to quit, shelters more than 90,000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory and has allowed rebel army leaders sanctuary.
(France 24 with wires)
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