ANKARA: Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said his country will not “tolerate” Al Qaeda-type groups emerging in the Syrian conflict following fighting between rebels and jihadists last week.
“We will not allow any formation beyond our borders that would threaten Turkey and the entire region,” Gul was quoted as saying by the Milliyet newspaper yesterday. “We can never tolerate this.”
The president said the threats of radicalism and terrorism emerging from Syria’s civil war were “Turkey’s most important issues” which were often discussed with the military.
Gul was speaking to reporters en route to New York where he is due to attend the UN General Assembly.
Last week, Turkey temporarily shut its border after fighting between Syrian rebels and an Al-Qaeda front group in the northern town of Azaz.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on Wednesday seized control of Azaz amid increasing reports of fighting between ISIS and non-jihadist rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.
Turkey has cut off ties with the regime in Damascus since Assad’s deadly crackdown on popular dissent and has so far taken in more than 500,000 Syrian refugees as well as providing shelter for rebels.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s air force yesterday paid tribute to the crew who shot down a Syrian military helicopter which it said had violated Turkish airspace.
Air Force Commander General Akin Ozturk has “honoured the personnel who applied rules of engagement toward a Syrian helicopter which refused to leave the airspace last week despite warnings,” the air force command said in a statement.
Turkish warplanes on Monday downed the Syrian helicopter which Ankara said was detected 2km inside Turkish airspace.
Turkey changed its rules of engagement after the downing of one of its fighter jets by the Syrian air force in June 2012.
The government had warned that any military approach from Syria on the Turkish border would be considered a threat.
Relations between once close allies Damascus and Ankara have deteriorated since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in March 2011.
The long and volatile border between the two countries has become increasingly tense, with a number of incidents in the area, which prompted Nato to station Patriot missile batteries there for defensive purposes. AFP