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NATO Vows Defense of Turkey if Syrian Conflict Spreads
October 9, 2012

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NATO officials have voiced their support for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and vowed to defend his country if the civil war in Syria spills over into Turkey. The announcement came from NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on behalf of the other 27 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Turkey has been a member since 1952.)

Fighting along the Syria-Turkey border has intensified in recent weeks, including trading of shells between the two countries after a Syrian government attack killed a handful of Turkish civilians in a town just inside Turkey last week. Shells from Syrian forces have landed on Turkish soil every day for a week.

Rasmussen and Erdogan made it clear that neither Turkey nor NATO would go on the offensive against Syria but would use all options to defend Turkish land.

NATO forces were heavily involved in the campaign against Col. Moammar Gadhafi in Libya but have so far not embraced military opposition to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The uprising against Assad is nearly 19 months old, with heavy fighting now the norm in most major Syrian cities and a death toll exceeding 15,000, with some battles resulting in casualties in the hundreds on a daily basis. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have fled across the country's borders, most notably into Turkey.

One of the most vocal opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army, recently announced that it would move its headquarters from within Turkey back into Syria. The armed opposition to Assad within Syria has been nowhere near as united as that faced by Gadhafi in Libya, and that is one major factor in the reticence of other nations to send weapons to the opposition. (A few nearby countries, notably Qatar and the Saudi Arabia, have openly sent money to opposition groups.)

Out of Damascus came an announcement from the government that the conflict had cost the country nearly $34 billion. Bans on imports of Syrian oil to the U.S. and the European Union are costing the country millions of dollars a day in lost revenue. The country's currency, the pound, has weakened, as has the government's currency reserves.

A human rights organization put forward an estimate that the number of buildings destroyed was nearly 600,000. Notable among them were significant parts of Aleppo's historic Souk Al-Madina, damaged in a large fire last week.






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