Turkish parliament approves military intervention in Syria

Lawmakers grant Ankara right to deploy troops to retaliate against Syrian aggression; ‘bill is not for war,’ says deputy PM

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Turkish lawmakers and ministers  at Turkey's parliament in Ankara (photo credit: AP)
Turkish lawmakers and ministers at Turkey's parliament in Ankara (photo credit: AP)

The Turkish parliament on Thursday approved a government proposal to use military force against Syria “when necessary” in response to Wednesday’s cross-border bombardment that killed five civilians.

In an emergency meeting of parliament convened on Thursday morning, the Grand National Assembly voted 320-129 in favor of a bill calling for “a one-year-long permission to make the necessary arrangements for sending the Turkish Armed Forces” into Syria in light of the “negative impact of the ongoing crisis in Syria on our national security, as well as on regional stability and security.”

Turkey’s deputy prime minister Besir Atalay explained that the bill is not a declaration of war but is intended as a deterrent against its neighbor.

Atalay also told AFP that Damascus apologized and accepted responsibility for Wednesday’s shelling that killed five civilians on Turkish soil.

“The Syrian side has admitted what it did and apologized,” Atalay told reporters.

“Statements and declarations did not seem to do the work anymore, so Turkey feels compelled to act militarily, even if in a limited manner,” Dr. Nimrod Goren, chairman of MITVIM, The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies told the Times of Israel.

While the bill does not constitute a declaration of war, it would “enable the government freedom in deciding if, when and how to react to possible further escalation. It also aims to serve as a sign of deterrence to Syria, and to show to the Turkish public that the government is reacting harshly to the situation,” Goren said.

Parliamentary approval of the measure will not necessarily translate into immediate military response, Professor Brent Sasley of University of Texas at Arlington told the Times of Israel.

“The bottom line is that there is no public support… and no political will for what would be an uncertain operation with unforeseeable consequences,” he said. “Turkey is worried more about a series of domestic issues and constructing a new foreign policy for the region. A war with Syria would throw all of this into further confusion and make existing problems worse.”

The Turkish Constitution mandates in Article 92 that the Turkish Grand National Assembly approve any declaration of war or mobilization of armed forces.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds a 326-seat majority in the 550-member Grand National Assembly, voted largely in favor of the motion. The largest opposition party, the 135-seat Republican People’s Party (CHP), said it would vote against military intervention in Syria. The 51-seat Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also opposed the bill, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Despite the fact that prime ministerial aide İbrahim Kalın tweeted that Turkey has no interest in war with Syria, Erdoğan signed the government motion calling for military intervention in Syria.

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The Turkish prime minister’s office on Wednesday announced its military’s response and said that “these provocations against the safety of Turkey will not remain unanswered.”

Ankara’s rhetoric against President Bashar Assad’s violent crackdown against the Syrian people has risen in tone since the June 22 downing of a Turkish Air Force reconnaissance jet by the Syrian army. In the wake of the attack, Erdoğan told parliament that “the rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed,” and that “any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target.”

Since the June incident, Turkey has mobilized numerous artillery, anti-aircraft, and armored forces to the border with Turkey and has scrambled fighter jets to thwart approaching Syrian aircraft.

In an interview with CNN last month, Erdoğan equated the “merciless slaughter” of the Syrian people by Assad to genocidal mass murders perpetrated in the Bosnian and Kosovo Wars in the 1990s. He called on the international community to establish a no-fly zone or buffer zone in order to prevent a Srebrenica-like massacre.

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