Ankara says Damascus ‘should pay’ for attack
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Before announcing Turkey’s roadmap over Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visits main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and other opposition leaders to inform them about the attack, in a rarely seen move in Turkish politics. AA photoTurkey has found out that the order to down a Turkish jet was given by the Bashar al-Assad administration, while a ranking Turkish source said the Syrian regime “should pay” for the attack.
According to radar traces provided by the chief of General Staff, the Turkish F4 was downed 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast in international waters but crashed in Syrian territorial waters. The graphics underline that the Turkish jet unintentionally violated Syrian airspace at 11.42 for five minutes, only 16 minutes before contact was lost with the jet. At 11.44 Turkish radars informed the jet that it entered into Syrian airspace and told it to leave as soon as possible.
There are serious indicators that the political order to down the Turkish jet came from Damascus in light of Turkish intelligence’s interception of 16 minutes of radio communication between Syrian military officials. The radio communication also shows that Syrian officials knew perfectly that the plane had a Turkish flag. A ranking Turkish source said Syria should pay for shooting down a Turkish military plane, adding Turkey would stay within the boundaries of international law. But all options are on the table, and yesterday’s meetings between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and opposition leaders are an indicator of that, the source said.
Breaking its silence about the incident yesterday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu provided detailed information on how the incident took place and accused of Syria misinforming the international community.
“It was a routine training flight and undertaking a national radar system test in respect of national security over recent developments on the Mediterranean coast. Our plane was unarmed and was performing a solo flight. Its flight was not whatsoever in a hostile one. To consider this flight as a threat is either an indication of bad intentions or amateurishness,” Davutoğlu said.
NATO to meet tomorrow
Syrians were aware of such flights, Davutoğlu added, underlining that the mission and identification codes were not hidden. “The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission,” he said. “We are walking on a very thin line. It’s a very hard process. We will take definitive steps but will not be acting impulsively. Our acts will be within the boundaries of international law,” Davutoğlu said.
He also said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would introduce Turkey’s final position on Syria in a speech tomorrow after discussing the matter at a Cabinet meeting today. “Turkey is not a country making sudden and unrestrained reactions,” the minister said, adding that Ankara would act on the basis of international law reserving all its rights. “No one should try to test the capacity of Turkey.”
The Turkish foreign minister said the government was acting in the framework of an action plan the implementation of which would be scheduled along a certain timeline. In the first phase, Turkey launched a massive campaign to rightly inform the international community, in a move to challenge Syrian assertions that the incident took place in Syrian airspace. As a member of the NATO, Turkey called the alliance for a meeting under Article 4 of the NATO treaty on Tuesday. This article stipulates consultative meetings if any member country thinks that its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat. Turkey will make a comprehensive representation of the incident at the meeting, to be held at the level of permanent representatives.
Protest note issued against Syria
Likewise Turkey is also planning to bring this issue before the United Nations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry already sent letters to the term presidents of both the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council. Ambassadors from the Arab League, European Union and NATO countries were invited to the Foreign Ministry on June 24 for detailed information on how the incident occurred.
In the meantime, Turkey issued a strongly worded note of protest against Syria on June 23. The note was delivered to Syria’s consul general based in Istanbul and accused Damascus of aggression against Turkey, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned. It also underlined that it reserved its rights to compensation in the light of international law.
According to the diplomats, Iran would play a key role in this process to convince Syria to issue a formal apology and pay compensation to Turkey. In a phone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salahi, Davutoğlu requested support from Tehran. He also asked Salehi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to provide any additional information they have. Russia has a naval base in northern Syria. The Turkish foreign minister said this attack against a Turkish jet demonstrated that the instability inside Syria had begun to spread to the region but that Ankara was not linking the two issues.
Syria: Accident, not assault
“Syria was merely exercising its right and sovereign duty and defense,” Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi was quoted as saying yesterday in Al-Watan, a pro-government daily. “There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension (exists) between the two countries.” “What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters,” Makdissi said.