Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turkey Beefs Up Territory near Syria

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turkey Beefs Up Territory near Syria

Article excerpt

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's military on Friday deployed tanks and missile defense systems on hilltops overlooking Syria, the state- run Anatolia news agency said.

The deployment in Mursitpinar, near the border town of Suruc, came hours after Turkey scrambled fighter jets after a Syrian helicopter came close to the border, according to a Turkish official who declined to be identified because the information is sensitive. Turkey has threatened to target Syrian military elements if they pose a security threat, following the downing of a Turkish military jet by Syria in June.

Turkey's ties with Syria, once an ally, dramatically deteriorated over Turkish backing for Syrian rebels fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey fired artillery in response to Syrian shelling that killed five people in the Turkish border town of Akcakale on Oct. 3.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which called the attack on Akcakale "a flagrant breach of international law," praised Turkey's restraint Tuesday and assured the Turkish government of the alliance's military support if it is attacked.

Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, survived an opposition censure motion in parliament Friday for allegedly bringing the nation to the brink of war with Syria. The ruling Justice and Development Party used its almost-60 percent majority in the 550-seat parliament to defeat the motion by the Republican People's Party.

In an interview published Friday in the Turkish newspaper Aydinlik, Mr. Assad denied Turkish accusations that Syria was aiding militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known by its Kurdish acronym PKK, an armed separatist group in Turkey's southeast. "The Turkish government is circulating these claims to legitimize its support to armed groups" fighting the government, the Syrian president said, according to the newspaper.

More than 500 Syrian military, including 40 generals and 500 soldiers, have deserted to Turkey since fighting broke out between rebels and government forces in March 2011, Turkish Foreign Ministry official Suphi Atan said by phone Friday.

At least 210 people were killed across Syria on Thursday, including 47 in Idlib, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an emailed statement. …

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