DJIBOUTI (Reuters) - Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Muslim nations to recognize a fledgling Syrian opposition coalition on Thursday and warned Turkey had both the will and capacity to defend its borders if violence continued to spill over.
Speaking at an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ministerial meeting in Djibouti, Davutoglu hailed the formation of the new opposition grouping as an “important achievement” and said President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was on its last legs.
“Turkey ... once again reiterates its recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and calls upon all our brothers in the OIC to do so,” Davutoglu said, according to the text of his speech.
Members of Syria’s fractious opposition, including rebel fighters, veteran dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities, forged a coalition on Sunday to try to end the in-fighting that has hampered their struggle against Assad.
France and some Gulf Arab states have fully recognized the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces but the United States, Arab League and most European countries have been more cautious.
Turkey, which is housing more than 120,000 Syrian refugees, has led calls for the creation of a buffer zone to protect civilians inside Syria and has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of international consensus.
It has bolstered the military presence along its 900 km (560 mile) border with Syria, fired back in response to mortar shells flying into its territory, and is talking to NATO about the possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles, a potential prelude to enforcing a no-fly zone.
“We do not want escalation. But everyone should be well aware that Turkey has the capacity and determination to protect its citizens and borders,” Davutoglu said.
“Turkey’s border security has been jeopardized. Our towns on the border have been targeted by the Syrian army,” he said.
Turkish fighter jets patrolled the country’s southeastern frontier with Syria for a second day on Thursday, following an air assault this week by Syrian warplanes on the rebel-held border town of Ras al-Ain.
Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Matt Robinson and Louise Ireland