NATO chief backs Turkey
BRUSSELS / CAIRO
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) attends a meeting organized by the Arab League in Cairo to unite the Syrian opposition groups under one umbrella. AA photoNATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has condemned Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet as “unacceptable” and also indirectly criticized a Wall Street Journal report which contradicted Turkey’s claims that its jet was shot down in international waters.
Rasmussen told a routine press conference in Brussels that unnamed sources should not be trusted, referring to the recent WSJ report. The condemnation came a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused WSJ of biased journalism and called on the newspaper to reveal its sources.
Rasmussen said the alliance condemned the report “in the strongest terms,” and expressed solidarity with Turkey. But he reiterated that the alliance will not intervene militarily in Syria’s conflict, “because we believe a political solution is an adequate solution.” Downing a jet without any warning is in any event incompatible with international norms and unacceptable, he said.
Rasmussen’s remarks came shortly after Turkey briefed NATO’s North Atlantic Council in discussions yesterday held under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which allows a NATO member to request consultation if its security has been threatened. Rasmussen said that Turkey is expected to brief NATO about the Syria issue this week.
The WSJ report cited an anonymous American official as saying that the incident occurred close to the Syrian coast and that there was no indication that the jet was brought down by a laser-guided missile, as would be necessary if it were hit in international airspace. The Turkish military denied WSJ’s report, saying the incident occurred in international waters.
In the meantime, the Arab League and Turkey called on the Syrian opposition to unite at a gathering of nearly 250 members of the Syrian opposition in Cairo, in an effort to coax the disparate groups to pull together. “There is an opportunity before the conference of Syrian opposition today that must […] not be wasted under any circumstances,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi said.
Opposition urged to unite
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey’s policy with Syria is fairly frank and they are standing by Syrians who are demanding democratic rights, addressing the Syrian Oppositions Conference yesterday. Davutoğlu also called on the Syrian opposition to gather together and set their personal problems aside. Meanwhile, Davutoğlu met with his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr on the sidelines of the gathering in Cairo. On the ground, Syrian attack helicopters bombarded Douma, a suburb of Damascus, yesterday, according to activists. Also, Syria issued three new “counter-terrorism” laws yesterday, which may impose the death sentence for “terrorist” acts.
Army actions over border
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
The Turkish army has increased its mobility along the borders of Iraq and Syria, the Chief of General Staff has announced, hitting terrorists’ bases in northern Iraq and sending away Syrian choppers approaching the Turkish border. “Three targets belonging to the separatist terror organization in the Kandil and Zab areas were hit effectively by the Turkish Air Forces between June 26 and 30,” the military said in a written statement yesterday. These air strikes follow a massive military operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in reaction to the killing of eight troops by terrorists mid-June, in the Dağlıca province of Hakkari. The statement said 25 PKK members were killed while 23 others were wounded at the operation. In a separate statement, the military said it had scrambled a total of six F-16 fighter jets in three separate incidents, responding to Syrian military helicopters approaching the border on July 1. F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey in response to Syrian helicopters flying south of the Turkish province of Hatay, within 2-2.5 miles of the Turkish border. The helicopters did not violate Turkish airspace. The military announced its first action against Syrian helicopters on July 1.