NATO Defends Turkish-Syrian Border

European News Brief: Nov. 2012

News | Vienna Review | November 2011

Recently, NATO declared that it would stand by Turkey if conditions worsened. In a direct warning to Syria after a week of cross-border artillery fire, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen officially stated: "We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary." Syria has apologised for it’s "accidental" shelling of Turkey. If this had been an intended hit on Turkish territory, NATO would have had to act in Turkey’s defence. However, NATO members have been cautious to get involved in another military conflict.

Many fear the civil war spilling out into a regional conflict – one that leaves the question how the lives of Syria’s Kurdish community will be affected. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), seeking independence from Turkey, has already vowed a reprisal if Ankara attacks Syrian Kurds. Located in the Middle East, Kurds remain the largest regional ethnic group without a state. Turkey may attempt to disentangle itself from this degree of commitment, but it could be hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees for a long time to come.

Further south, a UN force of 8,000 soldiers from Canada, Poland, Finland and Austria monitor the buffer zone set up between Syria and Israel in 1974. Around 400 Austrian troops are stationed at the Golan Heights to protect the truce. If civilian lives within the buffer zone are at risk, they have been granted permission to open fire. Should the situation escalate any further, it remains unclear whether or not the UN will want these troops to remain at their current station.

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