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Terrorism & Security

Responses to Syrian shelling highlight Turkish-Western divide on conflict (+video)

While the US and other Western nations resist being drawn into the fighting in Syria, Turkey is feeling the direct effects of bloodshed and refugees, putting pressure on Ankara to act.

By Staff writer / October 5, 2012

Turks hold cartoons depicting Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they protest against a possible war with Syria, in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, Oct. 4.

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Middle East Editor

Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog. 

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Turkey has ceased its shelling of Syria in retaliation for a mortar attack that killed Turkish civilians, but the hostilities have laid bare the fact that, despite cooperation so far, the United States and other Western powers have vastly different concerns and goals than Syria's neighbors when it comes to resolving the Syrian conflict.

With a spillover of fighting into Turkish territory a possibility and the growing rebel and refugee presence in eastern Turkey already sowing some discontent among locals, Turkey feels a much greater sense of urgency to bring about a resolution. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the most strident voices of criticism of the Assad regime in Syria, as well as one of the most overt backers of the rebels.

While the US and others have clearly sided with the rebels, their support has been far more careful. 

Turkey's parliamentary resolution yesterday authorizing military offensives into other countries prompted a flurry of alarm among Turks and the international community. Officials from Turkey's ruling party have been quick to issue statements reassuring Turks and the international community that the resolution was only a precaution.

"This is not a resolution that licenses war. If you want security and peace, you must be ready for a fight at all times," Huseyin Celik, a lawmaker and spokesman for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) said, according to The Wall Street Journal. "There shouldn't be panic as if there's a war at our doorstep."

The US and United Nations have both condemned Syria's initial attack, but not Turkey's retaliation. "From our perspective, the response that Turkey made was appropriate," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said yesterday, according to WSJ. "The intent in sending a very strong message was to deter future aggression."

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