Turkey does not intend to threaten Syria, defense minister says

March 29, 2012, Thursday/ 16:46:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Turkey's defense minister has stated that Turkey does not intend to threaten Syria with military action, saying a recent visit by the country's land forces commander to the border area was a routine inspection.

“We have no thoughts or intentions of threatening Syria in any way. But we do want the democratic demands of the people of Syria to be met,” Defense Minister İsmet yılmaz said on Thursday during a visit to Sakarya province for a series of meetings with local officials.

Yılmaz visited the office of Sakarya Governor Mustafa Büyük at noon, where he answered a question from the press regarding a recent visit by Land Forces Commander Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoğlu to the Syrian border.

He also said the Turkish government was against an intervention in Syria from outside the region. “What do we want? We want the Arab League to consider the demands of the Syrian people and make a decision for the countries of the region accordingly.”

He noted that the next Friends of Syria meeting was going to take place in İstanbul. “The work of the Arab League and a decision from the Friends of Syria meeting will contribute to efforts to ensure that the Syrian people find peace in the shortest possible time.

Yılmaz also provided information on the situation of two Turkish journalists, Adem Özköse and Hamit Coşkun, who are being held in Syria. “The Foreign Ministry is working [to get the journalists back]. The most important thing is that they are both in good shape, and we hope to bring them back to Turkey in the shortest possible time.”

Yılmaz also noted that there had been no official swap offer for the two journalists.

There are about 18,000 Syrians in Turkey, including regime opponents and locals who came to Turkey fleeing the violence inflicted on the people by the Syrian army.

News from Hatay, where most of the refugees are camped, on Thursday indicates that 32 Syrian citizens were receiving treatment in the province's hospitals. Nineteen of them have gunshot wounds, reports said. More than 100 Syrians with injuries have come to Turkey seeking refuge and treatment since the violence started in Syria.

Many Syrians, unable to secure medical care at home for those injured in clashes, are now taking their wounded to the Turkish border, where they are first taken to tent camps set up by Turkey by Turkish soldiers and then transferred to hospitals in ambulances at the camp sites.

The exact number of Syrian citizens in the camps was 17,865 people as of Thursday, according to figures from the head of the Prime Ministry's Disaster Relief and Emergency Management Directorate, Fuat Oktay.

Oktay, in a written statement, said 68 Syrians had voluntarily returned home on Thursday and Friday, while 129 had entered Turkey.

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