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NATO ready to defend Turkey from Syria attacks

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the military alliance was ready to defend Turkey after repeated exchanges of fire with Syria.

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) sits prior to the start of the Oct. 9, 2012 NATO Defense Ministers meeting at NATO headquarter in Brussels. Rasmussen warned Tuesday against the dangers of the conflict in Syria escalating, saying alliance member Turkey had shown commendable restraint in response to shelling of its border area. (Thierry Charlier/AFP/Getty Images)

NATO is ready to defend Turkey “if necessary,” Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday, following repeated artillery and mortar exchanges between Turkey and Syria over the past week.

"We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary," Fogh Rasmussen told reporters ahead of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, the Daily Mail reported.

His comments come amid escalating tensions along the 560-mile Turkey-Syrian border, after an errant Syrian shell landed in Turkish territory last Wednesday, killing five people.

More from GlobalPost: Syria and Turkey continue artillery exchange for 6th straight day

Reuters reported that it was not clear if the shell was aimed at Turkey or the result of Syrian government troops “overshooting” as they attacked rebels to the north, where they are battling for control of border posts.

The spillover of violence into Turkey threatens to escalate the 18-month civil war in Syria into a regional conflict.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling AK Party on Monday that Ankara would do everything necessary to protect itself from attacks by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Associated Press reported.

"Every kind of threat to the Turkish territory and the Turkish people will find us standing against it," Erdogan said.

"Soldiers loyal to Assad threw shells at us, we immediately reacted and responded with double force. We shall never stop responding."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/121009/nato-turkey-syria