Ankara says tight measures against ISIS does not mean imminent war

AYŞE ŞAHIN
ISTANBUL
Published 30.06.2015 19:02
Updated 01.07.2015 10:29
Turkish soldiers take position a few hundreds meters from the border in Murşitpınar near Suruç, as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurdish forces and ISIS.
Turkish soldiers take position a few hundreds meters from the border in Murşitpınar near Suruç, as fighting intensifies between Syrian Kurdish forces and ISIS.

In response to allegations that Turkey is going to war in Syria, Turkish officials have said the precautions taken to push ISIS as well as other threatening factors in the region from its border does not mean immediate military action will take place

Officials made clear that the recent measures taken by Ankara are solely aimed at protecting its territory against any threat that might extend to Turkey after clashes between the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD) have escalated near its border to a worrisome level.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in a bid to ease the concerns that intensified as the media is abuzz with talks that Ankara is mulling going to war, said: "We will never plunge Turkey into an adventure." Speaking after the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) group meeting on Tuesday, Davutoğlu said: "There are speculations regarding the measures we have taken. There is no reason for concern, we will never draw Turkey into an adventure. We will not make it happen instantly."

There have been fresh reports in the media rife with allegations that Turkey is going to war. Turkey has recently broadened its rules of engagement to give troops authority to conduct an incursion into Syria, which has been dissolving into a failed state since the civil war broke out five years ago. Davutoğlu also ordered top military officials to get ready for a possible operation against any threat that approaches its borders.

The extent of the violence, which has reached an alarming level, prompted the preparations for a possible operation to impede any security issue, but these measures by Ankara have led to a misunderstanding that war is at the door.

Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also responded to concerns on Tuesday over a possible military intervention in Syria after Ankara gave a free hand to the Army for a cross-border operation in Syria and said the precautions taken against the dangers posed by ISIS on its doorstep does not necessarily mean going to war. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu agreed, saying Turkey should stand ready against any threat that might approach its territory and the necessary measures should be taken to hinder the advance of ISIS toward the country.

Kalın, speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, reassured that Turkey will not take unilateral action in Syria, but will act to protect its borders.

He said any security measures Turkey will take at its Syrian border will be entirely aimed at protecting its own border security and it is not correct to interpret Turkey's security measures as a step toward war.

"To interpret our border security measures as 'Turkey is going to war'... is not very rational," Kalın said.

The National Security Council (MGK) met late on Monday to discuss the scope of a possible intervention in Syria. The threats posed by both ISIS and the PKK-affiliated PYD's People's Protection Units (YPG) were discussed during the meeting, which was attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and top officials from the government and military. The developments ranging from Turkey's protracted refugee situation to the ever growing ISIS threat near its territory have been discussed in detail. The MGK released a statement on Monday saying there were concerns over the developments in northern Syria, but the statement did not give any indication that there will be any immediate military action.

Ankara has long favored the establishment of a safe zone for rebel groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the U.S.-led coalition was formed to fight ISIS. The idea however, has not been applied thus far.

"We never said we wanted a buffer zone, we said a no-fly zone, a safe zone. And it proves how right we are," Kalın said. He said their stance on the matter continues and that they will continue discussing the issue with Turkey's allies.

Çavuşoğlu pointed to a possible intervention but suggested media refrain from allegations on the matter as Ankara is currently at the level of discussing possibilities. He said: "The threats against us increase day by day. There are clashes right across our border that pose a threat to both people living there and us. There are certain measures that should be taken. We could intervene if necessary."

Çavuşoğlu warned that the Army should be prepared for any threat and added that foreseeing risks and taking precautions is their job.

"But it is not right to say this is how we will intervene, out of nothing. It is already being discussed on which conditions [the operation] can take place. There is no meaning to take it wrong just because the media asserts it that way," Çavuşoğlu said.

The recent suicide attacks conducted by ISIS in Kobani, a Syrian Kurdish border town currently controlled by YPG have fueled Ankara's fears that violence could extend to Turkey.

Ankara's concerns about instability in the region are not limited to ISIS. The YPG's driving out of ISIS from Tal Abyad also became a matter of unsettlement for Turkey. Tal Abyad lies between two Kurdish-controlled cantons, Kobani and Jazeera, so its capture is of strategic importance as it opens a supply route between the two spots, triggering Turkish fears that such bridging will ramp up Kurdish power in the region, ultimately posing a threat to Turkish security.Erdoğan previously said he was worried that the PYD and the PKK were filling the vacuum left behind after driving ISIS back, and that it could "create a structure" near its borders that might threaten the country.

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