Nato to meet over downing of Turkish jet

2012-06-25 07:39

Damascus - Nato said it would meet to discuss member state Turkey's accusation that Syria shot down one of its warplanes in international airspace and not inside its own territory, as Damascus claims.

Nato said it would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday following a request from Turkey that invoked Article Four of the alliance's founding treaty, which covers threats to member states' security.

Turkey has already acknowledged that its fighter jet might at some point have entered Syrian airspace. But after an initially cautious response, Ankara toughened its rhetoric on Sunday.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey's TRT television that at the time it was shot down, their aircraft was in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria.

Syria had given no warning before opening fire, he added.

The fighter had been on an unarmed training mission to carry out a radar system test, and both pilots are still missing.

Mistaken identity

"The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission," said Davutoglu.

"Nobody should dare put Turkey's [military] capabilities to the test," he warned.

"We will bring this affair before public opinion and international law in the name of Turkey's honour."

Syria has acknowledged shooting down the F-4 phantom jet after it violated its airspace, but insists it only identified it as a Turkish fighter after the fact.

"What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say," Syrian foreign ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi told the Al-Watan pro-government daily on Sunday.

But UN Security Council member Britain warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime "should not make the mistake of believing that it can act with impunity".

US condemnation

"It will be held to account for its behaviour," Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned a "brazen and unacceptable act" and promised US assistance in investigating the incident.

"It is yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities' callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security," Clinton said in a statement.

Italy, another Nato member, also condemned Syria over the incident and Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said they would "actively participate" in the Nato meeting.

In his comments to Al-Watan Sunday, foreign ministry spokesperson Makdissi tried to pour oil on the troubled waters.

"Syria was merely exercising its right and sovereign duty and defence," he said.

Strained relations

"There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension [exists] between the two countries."

Turkish-Syrian relations have been strained by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's outspoken condemnation of the Assad's regime's bloody crackdown, which activists say has killed more than 15 000 people since March 2011.

Already on Saturday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon had expressed his "deep concern" about the incident, particularly about the "potential serious implications" for the region, spokesperson Martin Nesirky said.

The fighting inside Syria claimed scores more lives on Sunday.

The official SANA news agency reported that regime troops had killed "dozens of terrorists" after engaging them as they attacked people in the Jabaliye neighbourhood of Deir Ezzor.

The Syrian government uses the term "terrorists" to describe the rebels.

Defecting soldiers

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 91 people had been killed on Sunday in Syria, including 59 civilians.

The Observatory also reported that following an attack on an artillery battalion in Aleppo, a number of soldiers had defected, taking with them a large quantity of weapons.

And it said that rebels had shot down a Syrian regime helicopter near the Jordanian border.

"This is one of the bloodiest weeks in the conflict," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Observatory, said.

"It's like we are in a war. Sometimes when two countries are at war, not even 20 people are killed a day. But now in Syria it has become normal to have 100 killed each day."

Australia on Monday announced fresh sanctions against Syria, restricting or prohibiting trade across entire sectors.

Russian delivery

"The Assad regime continues to show its unwillingness to negotiate a ceasefire and bring an end to Syria's bloodshed," Foreign Minister Bob Carr said in a statement.

In an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper, Carr called for Moscow to take a lead role in forcing Assad out.

But there were reports that Russia was to try again to send a Russian ship to make a controversial delivery of attack helicopters to Syria.

A first journey ended after exposure by the US authorities led the ship's British insurer to withdraw cover.

But an unnamed Russian diplomat said the ship, the Alaed, would soon try again to deliver the aircraft.

  • henry.bosman.5 - 2012-06-25 08:03

    An attack on one NATO member shall be considered as an attack on all. I think NATO should at least retaliate in kind against syria,take out half of syria's air force.

  • jaba.kov - 2012-06-25 08:11

    Nato is good at talking - but the inaction and the continues murder of Syrian civilians is louder than just words. Do something world!

  • faerrab - 2012-06-25 09:25

    Typical comments from the Usual Suspects - If an Iranian planefighter jet flew over Iraeli Airspace what would the Israeli and UN reaction be ?

      Larry - 2012-06-25 09:45

      You have to apply a little circumspection. Iran is a sworn enemy of Israel, and Israel would be correct in assessing an Iranian fighter jet as a credible threat. This is not the case between Syria and Turkey. See, a little bit of thinking will do you wonders. Try it next time before you post something stupid.

      faerrab - 2012-06-25 10:00

      Hello don't act daft - Turkey is supplying weapons to the rebels which makes Turkey an enemy of the Assad regime

      Larry - 2012-06-25 10:36

      Hello, how do you know that Turkey is supplying Syrian rebels? Turkey and Syria may have a strained relationship because of Assad's murdering his own people, but they are not enemies. Your imagination or information is faulty.

      wallace.outkast - 2012-06-25 10:46

      of course they supplying weapons to the rebels just they never admit it until the war is over like the did in lybia...

  • wallace.outkast - 2012-06-25 09:48

    looking for exuses to attack syria,so you tried your best now u found one, syria is a war zone, all the air defence are on hight alert and ready to fire, wasnt a cargo civil plane that was an army jet

      henry.bosman.5 - 2012-06-25 09:54

      Oh yes wallace. The syrian free army have an air force now? Turkey are syrias enemy now? Wake up boet

      Larry - 2012-06-25 10:40

      Perhaps an excuse is needed to stop Syrian government forces from killing its own citizens, and force it to step down and pave the way to democracy.

      wallace.outkast - 2012-06-25 10:44

      u call those rebels a free army? in Afghanistan u call them terrorist!!!, bloody agent

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-25 19:26

      Sad that you want Syrians to be butchered by an unelected dictator in control of state resources, including its military, when 134 countries out of the 151 on Earth have rightly decided Assad is an illegitimate leader and must step down. Sad that you are in favour of such outright oppression and abuse of human rights.

  • lesui07 - 2012-06-25 10:52

    We already know what will follow after the meeting of blood thirsty hypocrites(Nato).

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-06-25 11:06

      Yip, the guys having a meeting are the blood thirsty hypocrites but the guys commiting atrocities on its own people are the noble defenders of sovreignty. I suppose as long as you're killing people with the same passport as you , its a-okay!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-06-25 19:55

      Talk about blinding oneself. Are you aware of the daily murders of Syrians and their families happening right now at the hands of unelected dictator, even remotely aware?

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