Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey would never want to start a war and parliament had authorized foreign deployment of troops as a deterrent after the fatal Syrian shelling of southeast Turkey.

“We could never be interested in something like starting a war,” Erdogan told reporters at a news conference, according to a report in Al Arabiya.

“The Turkish Republic is a state capable of defending its citizens and borders. Nobody should try and test our determination on this subject,” he added.

The comments came after the Turkish parliament authorized cross-border military action into Syria, if deemed necessary by the government. The mandate, valid for one year, was passed by 320 votes in the 550-seat Turkish parliament.

During the news conference, Erdogan lashed out at Syria over increasingly growing number of attacks on Turkey as the violence escalates on border towns between Assad forces and opposition fighters and said these attacks can’t be an accident.

“Another mortar bomb fell in Hatay’s Altınözü district today,” Erdogan said in the news conference which was held jointly with Iran’s Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, according to a report in the Turkish daily Todays Zaman.

He suggested the Syrian shelling was not accidental, saying that such shells had fallen on Turkish territory on seven previous occasions since the civil war began there.

Meanwhile, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that Damascus “is not seeking any escalation with any of its neighbors, including Turkey,” after a deadly cross-border shelling incident.

“The Syrian government has a key interest in maintaining good neighborly relations with Turkey,” Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told reporters, according to Al Arabiya.

“In case of border incidents between any two neighboring countries, governments should act wisely, rationally and reasonably,” he added.

He called on the Turkish government to cooperate with Syria on controls to “prevent armed groups from infiltrating through this border” to stage attacks in Syria.

The ambassador said a Turkish counter-strike Thursday morning against Syrian positions on the other side of the border wounded two Syrian military officials.

He confirmed that Damascus had presented its “deepest condolences” to Ankara for the shelling Wednesday that killed five Turkish civilians, but he added “it was not an apology.” He said that authorities were “seriously investigating the source” of these strikes.

On Wednesday evening, the Turkish army attacked several targets in Syria.

The incident, the first of its kind since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad began in March of 2011, came several hours after a mortar shell fired from Syria exploded on Turkish territory and killed five people.

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