Turkish and French officials on Thursday said they were mulling a potential military intervention in Syria if the violence that has gone on for 14 months continues.
“In the face of developments in Syria, we are taking into consideration any kind of possibility in line with our national security and interests,” Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu told parliament during a briefing to lawmakers.
“Planning what kind of measures we will take if tens of thousands of people end up on our border is a requirement of being a big state,” he said.
“This is not an intervention or warmongering as some claim.”
Davutoglu did not specify what measures his government would take, but the mass influx of refugees fleeing the Syrian unrest has raised alarm in Ankara.
Different scenarios have been floated, including the setting up of a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border to protect refugees, but opponents say such a measure would be a declaration of war.
In response to criticism from opposition parties, Davutoglu said Turkey did not attempt to change the regime of any country in the region including Syria.
“It was not we who initiated the popular movement in Syria. We didn't call on anybody to rise up,” he said. “But we cannot and will not remain silent to the masses' appeal for democracy.”
“Peace and stability can be restored in Syria, not with the Baath regime but with a new political system which takes its legitimacy from the people,” said Davutoglu.
France on Thursday repeated its call for the UN Security Council to allow military action in Syria if a UN–backed peace plan brokered by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan fails to stop the violence under Assad’s regime.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe signaled that Paris is increasingly lining up behind a US position laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Paris talks last week by key members of the so–called “Friends of Syria” group.
He said France has been discussing with other world powers the prospect of invoking Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which allows for action that could be militarily enforceable.
Clinton also mentioned a Chapter 7 resolution on Thursday.
However, there is strong concern any such move would face a veto from China or Russia, both of whom have billions of dollars in contracts and investments tied to Damascus.
Russia accused the rebel Free Syria Army on Thursday of waging a wide–scale "terror campaign" that is designed to kill as many civilians as possible despite a formal ceasefire.
“Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide–scale terror in the region,” said foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
Lukashevich also repeated Russia’s call for Assad’s army to “fully implement the obligations it assumed in accordance with the Kofi Annan plan” for Syria that has looked in increasing peril as violence rages on.
But the spokesman laid most of Russia’s criticism on opposition forces he said were reverting to tactics that pointed to the involvement of the Al–Qaeda global terror network.
“There is another side in Syria,” said Lukashevich. “Opposition groups have essentially reverted to waging wide–scale terror in the region.”
The FSA is composed of poorly equipped army defectors armed as light infantry. They have staged numerous deadly ambushes and hit–and–run raids across Syria, but have not been known – as the Assad regime charges – carry out bombings.
Security analysts say the FSA does not have the organizational structure or technical capacity to mount the kind of concerted bombing campaign the regime accuses them of. They also note FSA troops – far more than army troops who remain loyal to Assad – have striven to minimize civilian causalities.
UN officials say the civilian death toll in Syria is greater than 9,100. In recent months, reports of war crimes by Assad's forces – including systemic rape, torture, and summary execution of rebels and political dissidents – have become commonplace.