Syria condemned plans by Turkey to site Patriot missiles along its border as “a new act of provocation”, after weeks of cross-border tension has raised fears that the Syrian civil war could embroil the wider region.
Turkish soldiers patrol on the Turkish-Syrian border near the town of CeylanpinarPhoto: AFP/GETTY
In its first response since Turkey asked its Nato partners for the deployment of the missiles earlier this week, the Syrian foreign ministry said: “There is no reason for panic because Syria respects the sovereignty and sanctity of Turkish territory and the interests of the Turkish people.”
An unnamed official told state television: “Syria stresses its condemnation of the Turkish government’s latest provocative step.
“Syria holds [Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan responsible for the militarisation of the situation at the border between Syria and Turkey, and the increase of tension and destruction to the detriment of the Syrian and Turkish peoples.”
Turkey and Nato insist that the deployment of surface-to-air missiles along its long border would be purely “defensive”, citing examples in recent weeks when fighting in Syrian border towns has spilled across the frontier and wounded Turkish citizens.
In a concerted effort, Syrian allies Iran and Russia warned that the move could spark a regional conflict.
Moscow yesterday advised Turkey against deploying the defences. “I understand that no one has any intention to see Nato get sucked into the Syrian crisis,” Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, told reporters. But, he added, “the more arms are being accumulated, the greater the risk that they will be used”.
Representatives from the Iranian government held talks with Mr Assad in Damascus as part of a concerted effort by Tehran to open a new diplomatic front on the Syrian crisis.
Iran’s influential parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, has begun a regional tour that will also take him to Turkey and Lebanon to “try to find a solution to the Syrian problem,” Iran’s Mehr news agency said.
In Damascus, Mr Larijani accused regional powers he did not name of causing “problems” in Syria, alluding to Turkey and Gulf states accused of arming insurgents, and also to the opposition’s chief Western allies, Britain and France, who have recognised the new Syrian National Coalition as “the legitimate” leaders of the country. The European Union is considering dropping its ban on providing the rebels with weapons