Turkey threatens force if Syrian troops near border

The New York Times reports: Buoyed by support from NATO allies, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned Syrian forces to stay clear of their troubled border or face a Turkish military response to any perceived threat, following the disputed downing of a Turkish warplane.

The Turkish leader’s bellicose tone signaled no discernible easing of tensions between the two Mediterranean neighbors as ambassadors from the NATO alliance, desperate to avoid a wider conflict, held emergency talks in Brussels.

After the meeting, the NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the alliance considered Syria’s actions in shooting down the Turkish warplane last Friday “unacceptable.”

In a unanimous statement, the NATO allies called the episode “another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.” Turkey is a member of the alliance.

“I would certainly expect that such an incident won’t happen again,” Mr. Rasmussen said at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels. He added that the alliance would closely follow developments and “if necessary, consult and discuss what else could be done.”

In Ankara, Mr. Erdogan said Turkey had revised its military rules of engagement toward Syria.

“Every military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria in a manner that constitutes a security risk or danger would be considered as a threat and would be treated as a military target,” he said in a speech to lawmakers attended by Arab diplomats.

“From here, we warn the Syrian regime not to make any mistakes, not to test Turkey’s decisiveness and wisdom,” Mr. Erdogan said.

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