Turkey has deployed anti-aircraft guns and other weapons alongside its border with Syria, days after tensions rose to unprecedented levels after the downing of a Turkish military jet by Syrian forces.
A small convoy of military trucks towed anti-aircraft guns into a Turkish military base in the border village of Guvecci, which faces a Syrian military outpost across the border. Anti-aircraft guns and rocket laucnhers have also been deployed at other key points along the border.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Tuesday that any Syrian military unit that approaches its border will be treated as a direct threat.
Turkey called a meeting on Tuesday with NATO allies to discuss the implications of Syria’s recent gunning down of a Turkish fighter jet. Turkey claims the plane was on a military drill, had briefly passed over Syrian territory and was shot down once in international territory.
In that meeting, amid public suspicions that the incident might lead to a NATO war with Syria, Turkey reportedly requested that the alliance draw up contingency plans for a no-fly zone to protect Turkish territory in the event of any further incidents. NATO made no comment on whether this would happen, but made public statements strongly supporting Turkey.
At the base of the tensions between Turkey and Syria is Ankara’s support of Syrian rebels and military defectors. When Syria began to descend into extreme violence, Turkey gave shelter to the Syrian rebel fighters and eventually provided them with lethal and non-lethal aid, despite their having ties to terrorist groups and having committed serious crimes themselves.
NATO and the Obama administration continue to publicly oppose open military action against the Assad regime, even as they support the rebels. But so far, Turkey’s furtive conflict with Syria is the most likely avenue for a Western intervention.