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Africa & World
Apr 28 2012 3:15PM
 
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The foreign ministry on Saturday accused Turkey of provocation with its talk of asking NATO to help protect its border with Syria, saying such action went against the UN-backed peace plan.

"Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu continue to make provocative statements aimed at aggravating the situation in Syria and harming bilateral ties," foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said.

"It is disturbing that Erdogan threatened to bring in NATO to protect its borders with Syria. This demonstrates a lack of a genuine commitment to the terms of the (Kofi) Annan plan and policies of good neighbourliness."

Makdisi also accused Erdogan of hosting armed groups "that do not believe in the political process".

On April 9, four Syrian refugees and two Turks, a policeman and a translator, were wounded in the Kilis refugee camp in southeastern Turkey when they were hit by gunfire from across the border.

When asked on April 12 what Turkey's response would be to conflict spilling over the Syrian-Turkish border, Erdogan responded by saying that "we have several options."

"First of all, there is an option of invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty," he said of NATO clause which stipulates that an attack against a NATO member is considered an attack against all members.

NATO action, however, requires unanimous support from members of the North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body of the group.

Davutoglu too said Thursday that Turkey is considering "all possibilities in order to protect national security" if the violence continues to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into its territory.

The media interpreted this as a possible declaration of a buffer zone along the 560 mile (910 kilometre) Syria-Turkey border for sheltering refugees.

In its statement, the Syrian foreign ministry announced that any Syrian refugee in Turkey will have full guarantees of his safe return and that Damascus is ready to cooperate with the Turkish Red Crescent to achieve this goal.

Turkey, once a strong ally of Syria, broke with Damascus after Bashar al-Assad's regime began cracking down on dissent in mid-March last year, sending waves of Syrian refugees into Turkish territory.

Although some of the refugees have headed back to Syria following Damascus's promise to implement international mediator Annan's ceasefire plan, Turkey still hosts more than 23,000 Syrians. -Sapa

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