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MURAT YETKİN > Syria shot Turkish jet in front of many eyewitnesses

The eastern Mediterranean is surrounded by many watching military eyes, leading many to wonder why no one witnessed the shooting down of a Turkish jet

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In his address to his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in the Parliament today, June 26, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to make an important statement about the country’s next move regarding Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish reconnaissance plane on June 22 off Syrian coast.

Following the June 25 cabinet meeting with all three main opposition parties in the Parliament, a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Ankara on June 24 and high-level security meetings on June 23 there has been a heavy diplomatic traffic denouncing Syria since the day the incident occurred, and now all eyes will be on Erdoğan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, in an interview with state-run television channel TRT on June 24, gave a detailed, minute-by-minute account of the incident and said it was a deliberate attack on an unarmed, open ID plane located outside Syrian territorial waters and without any advance warning given. Davutoğlu is operating as the coordinator of this crisis in Ankara. Despite Davutoğlu’s statements the Syrian government insists the plane was in Syrian territory and quite close, allowing it to be shot by a 2.5 kilometer range anti-aircraft gun.

Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi claimed that they had presented a part of an American made Turkish F-4 plane with bullet holes on it (thus proving the plane was not shot down by a rocket) to Turkey, but no Turkish source has so far confirm that. Turkish search and rescue efforts, on the other hand, found some parts of the cockpit and seats in open sea waters, which are reported to have traces of explosion and fire. The two Turkish pilots are still missing with hopes for their survival decreasing.

Now Hürriyet Daily News has additional information from official Turkish sources saying the plane was shot at 11:56 a.m. on June 22 (when the radio contact was lost) and crashed into the sea at 11:58 a.m. (when the radar track was lost) and during the one plus minute it glided down into Syrian territorial waters. Turkey says it has given all chronological accounts, including radar tracks and radio communications to its NATO allies and United Nations representations. The European Union Commission imposed new sanctions on Syria and denounced its militaristic politics on June 25. NATO has been called by Turkey for a meeting scheduled today for a presentation of the attack.

The attack actually took place in front of many eyewitnesses. The north corner of the East Mediterranean is one of the most condensed spot in the world when it comes to military and intelligence activities.

The Malatya, Erhaç air base of Turkey (see map on the front page) hosts a major early warning radar system for the NATO missile shield defense system, which started operation following the NATO summit in May, serving as a major issue between the United States and Russia. In Tartus, south of the main Syria city of Latakia where the Turkish plane was shot down off the coast, lies Russia’s main naval base in the Mediterranean with important intelligence capabilities. It is important for Russians to be close to three important targets at once; that is the main reason for them to back the actions of the Beshar Al-Assad regime against its own people: Incirlik NATO base, south of Turkey is one of biggest of its kind in the world is north of Tartus. Right to its west there is the Dikelia base of the United Kingdom, a main military and intelligence facility which also keeps an eye on the Suez channel and Aegean. To its south there is Israel, the main threat of its best ally in the region and its host regime, Syria. Perhaps there is no need to say that Israel is trying its best not to miss anything in this highly strategic part of the region.

There is no need to say that for many countries having satellites, this is a pretty attractive location to watch.

And so the question is: Is it possible not to see the attack with so many witnesses around? Another question: Is it possible to hide the truth when there are so many eyes watching?

June/26/2012

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