Turkey: NATO Article 5 still at play in Syrian crisis

Türkiye Materials 11 May 2012 05:15 (UTC +04:00)

The possibility of invoking the right to military protection of Turkish borders against threats from Syria under Article 5 of the NATO charter is still on Turkey's agenda, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said, Today's Zaman reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal said during a press briefing on Thursday that Turkey's expectation from Syria is that it halts the violence as soon as possible to prevent further instability. Unal said: "However, we have many options on the table if this instability deepens. We have to determine these options in accordance with the developments we face. As you know, Article 5 of NATO is related to self-defense. So, this issue was mentioned in the past due to some incidents that occurred [along the Turkish border]. This is, of course, a matter which will remain on the agenda and it will still be assessed."

Turkey first raised the issue of NATO protection of Turkish borders under Article 5 on April 10, following an incident along Turkey's border with Syria. Speaking to reporters traveling with him during his official visit to China, Erdogan said Turkey may consider invoking the NATO charter's fifth article to protect Turkish national security in the face of increasing tension along the Syrian border.

His comments came after four Syrians who fled to Turkey from the violence in Syria were killed by Syrian forces targeting refugees on the Turkish side of the border. Two Turkish nationals and two Syrians were injured during the incident at a refugee camp in Kilis province when Syrian forces fired across the border during clashes with opposition fighters, who had reportedly attempted to seize control of the border gate and then fled to Turkey.

Article 5, known as the collective defense clause, commits NATO states to defend a member state when it comes under attack. Whether or not NATO launches an intervention will be the sole decision of the treaty partners, who will assess the severity of the perceived threat.

When asked about Turkey's opinions with regards to the latest developments in Syria weeks after a peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan went into effect, Unal recalled that the plan is a six-article plan.

"Only one of the point calls for a truce and the others include many issues to be complied with by the Syrian administration such as allowing people to stage peaceful demonstrations and not opening fire on them. However, Annan has also voiced that these are not being complied with. So, both sides should be careful, but more responsibility falls on the Syrian administration. As long as the Syrian administration fails to halt its own armed operations, it is impossible for the Annan plan to be put into practice," he said.

Unal also commented on recently released photos of two Turkish journalists who are being held in Syria. He said efforts are still under way to secure the return of the journalists to Turkey. Turkey's Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) published photos earlier this week of two Turkish journalists who were detained while covering the Syrian uprising two months ago; the two men appeared to be in good health.

Responding to questions from reporters about how the election of Francois Hollande as France's new president would affect recently deteriorating Turkish-French ties, Unal said that "Turkey hopes to overcome problems experienced in the past few years with an understanding of friendship and partnership" in bilateral ties.

"Our expectation is, of course, the opening of all the [EU] negotiation chapters suspended during the [former President Nicolas] Sarkozy era," he added.