The Turkish parliament’s measure did not mention Syria by name, but it gave the government blanket approval to conduct operations beyond Turkey’s borders for the coming year, potentially opening the door to unilateral Turkish military intervention in the bloody civil war unfolding next door.
Neither Turkey nor Syria has expressed any appetite for war, however, and there was no indication that the allies of either country would be prepared to support one.
World powers sought to calm both sides, amid growing concerns that the trajectory of events risks fulfilling long-standing prophecies that the Syrian war could ignite a wider regional confrontation.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made it clear that the United States thinks Turkey has already sufficiently retaliated for the shelling incident, calling the response “proportionate.”
“Our understanding is that the Turks have responded. The Turkish parliament has also given the government the capacity to respond again if there are future such violations of Turkish sovereignty,” she said in Washington.
Speaking in the town of Akcakale, where the shelling occurred, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated Thursday night that Turkey has no wish to escalate the situation, although he also stressed its readiness to respond to provocation.
“We want peace and security and nothing else. We would never want to start a war,” Erdogan said. “Turkey is a country which is capable of protecting its people and borders. No one should attempt to test our determination on the issue.”
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Syria reminded the world that it had acted with “self-restraint” after the Turkish shelling. It also offered condolences to the families of the five people who were killed and to the “brotherly” people of Turkey.
But in a reminder of how fraught the Turkish-Syrian relationship has become, the letter, delivered by Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari, offered no apology for the incident and did not acknowledge Syrian responsibility, despite a plea from its ally Russia for it to do so.
Syria faces a threat, the letter said, from “terrorists” whose activities have been aided by lax controls across Syria’s borders — a clear reference to the latitude Turkey allows rebel Free Syrian Army fighters in the border area.
“There are undisciplined armed terrorist groups spreading on those borders which . . . pose a threat to the security of Syria, also to the security of the countries of the region,” the letter said, citing as evidence a double bombing in Aleppo on Tuesday in which 34 people died.