Syria Fight Spills Over Borders / Shots Kill, Injure Civilians in Turkey and Lebanon, Jeopardizing Cease-Fire Plan (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By JOE PARKINSON and MARIA ABI-HABIB ISTANBUL, TURKEY 04/10/12)
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ISTANBUL—Fierce fighting in Syria poured over two borders on Monday,
all but dashing hopes for a United Nations-backed peace plan and
spotlighting the conflict´s potential to ensnare neighboring states.
Clashes between Syrian soldiers and rebel fighters along Syria´s
border with Turkey wounded at least four people, including two
Turkish officials, when Syrian bullets hit a Turkish refugee camp,
authorities said. Two Syrians died and 21 were injured in related
conflicts on the border, close to the camp.
Hours later, a cameraman for a Lebanese TV station was shot dead by
Syrian troops while he worked in northern Lebanon near the border
with Syria, said Lebanon´s prime minister, Najib Mikati.
The U.S. said it was "absolutely outraged" by the cross-border
attacks. Turkey condemned Monday´s clashes and said Tuesday´s
deadline for Syria to withdraw troops from cities and towns was
now "void." Mr. Mikati called for the prosecution of those
The grim news appeared to throw international diplomatic efforts to
solve the bloody crisis further into disarray, with analysts
predicting Syria´s near certain failure to meet Tuesday´s U.N.-
imposed deadline. A full cease-fire was scheduled to begin Thursday.
That action was part of a six-point plan by Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab
League envoy to Syria, for breaking the deadlock.
The plan had already appeared to stall on Sunday after Syria´s
president, Bashar al-Assad, demanded a new condition that wasn´t in
the Annan plan: written pledges that "armed groups" first lay down
their weapons. They swiftly refused.
The cross-border clashes came amid reports of new attacks on cities
across Syria which left more than 100 dead on Monday, including more
than 30 in Hama city, said activists.
In the Turkish incident, shots fired from Syrian troops penetrated
the perimeter of the camp at the border town of Kilis, in the first
such cross-border event.
Scores of Syrians ran out of the camp at Kilis to come to the aid of
refugees being fired upon as they attempted to cross the border in an
area which had seen clashes that morning, Turkey´s foreign ministry
said. In the ensuing melee, shots were fired which went into the
camp, wounding five. Other shots killed two and wounded 21 Syrians
outside the camp, the ministry said.
Turkish television showed chaotic scenes of men ripping holes in the
corrugated iron walls of the camp and running toward the border,
while others clambered onto observation towers to try to survey the
Turkey´s foreign ministry summoned Syria´s chargé d´affaires in
Ankara to demand troops stop shooting.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the acts were "just
another indication that the Assad regime does not seem at all willing
to meet the commitments that it made to Kofi Annan."
U.S. officials were mum on what they would do next, other than await
the deadline and confer with allies. Ms. Nuland suggested Syria´s
actions could prompt Turkey to invoke the mutual defense provisions
of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Turkey didn´t comment on
White House press secretary Jay Carney expressed pessimism that the
Annan plan would hold, but said the administration´s opposition to
arming the opposition hasn´t changed. "We do not believe it´s at this
time the right approach because the further militarization there
would potentially have negative consequences," Mr. Carney said.
The Obama administration announced this month that it would share
communications equipment with the Syrian opposition. U.S. officials
have also said Washington might pass intelligence to Syrian fighters.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores today´s fatal
cross-border shootings from Syria into Turkey," and demanded that
Damascus "immediately cease all military actions against civilians
and fulfill all of its commitments" made to Mr. Annan.
Many Western nations have expressed skepticism about Mr. Assad´s
readiness to implement Mr. Annan´s plan. But the Western governments
that dominate the Friends of Syria group this month agreed to support
the plan given Moscow´s support for Mr. Assad and the apparent lack
of appetite for intervention.
Analysts said that a collapse of the Annan plan, sponsored by the
Arab League as well as the U.N., would likely see Western and Arab
governments return to the U.N. Security Council to broker a tougher
But there are few signs that Russia or China—which have both vetoed
two Western-backed resolutions at the Security Council—would reverse
their opposition to censuring or sanctioning the Assad regime.
China on Monday reiterated its call for all sides to implement the
U.N. plan, including "troop withdrawal promises." Syrian Foreign
Minister Walid Moualem flew to Moscow on Monday, where Russia´s
deputy foreign minister said the Kremlin was "working actively with
Damascus in order to begin a political settlement process in
[Syria]," according to the state news agency.
The potential for a replay of the diplomatic logjam which has
frustrated efforts to strengthen measures against Damascus at the
U.N. could throw the spotlight onto Turkey, analysts said.
Ankara has long said it is considering, among other options, setting
up a "safe" or "buffer" zone along the border with Syria, although
ministers have repeatedly sought to stress that the prospect remains
some way off.
But in recent days, Ankara has said it might have to act to prevent a
humanitarian disaster in the event of a flood of refugees, massacres
of civilians by Syrian troops near its border or an incident creating
a "risk to national security."
Fleeing Syrians have been mainly housed in Turkey´s southern
provinces of Kilis, Gaziantep and Hatay. Ankara has ordered more
accommodation constructed in Sanliurfa province.
Monday´s attacks come as Turkey has seen a record influx of refugees
and could lead to a hardening of its position.
"What will be important is whether this will remain as an isolated
incident or whether this will be part of a recurring security risk,"
said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace. "If Assad does not deliver, then
this incident will allow Turkish policy makers to increase their anti-
Assad rhetoric and to try to convince the international community to
be more assertive toward the Assad regime," he said.
Ms. Nuland said she "would not be surprised" if Turkish officials
raised the issue of the cross-border shooting with NATO allies, but
added she did not know whether it would fall under the treaty´s
collective defense article. The Sept. 11 attacks marked the first and
only time NATO ever invoked the mutual defense provision.
Turkish officials say they are increasingly worried. Turkish Foreign
Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Friday called on the international
community to take "solid steps" to prevent attacks on civilians. "If
the number of immigrants continues to rise, then the U.N. and some
other countries should also step in," he told reporters in Ankara.
Lebanon has seen several incursions of the Syrian military since the
start of the uprising, though Monday´s death is thought to be the
first time a member of the media has been killed there. But Monday´s
incidents inside Turkish territory are likely to underline the
government´s concern that Syria´s bloody uprising could again spill
across their border with Syria.
—Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee in Washington, Joe Lauria in New York
and Nada Raad in Beirut contributed to this article. (Copyright © Dow
Jones & Company, Inc.) 04/10/12)
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