Turkey, Syria still at odds over details
DAMASCUS / ANKARA
‘Turkey has not said its last word yet,’ Bağış says of the downing of a jet. DAILY NEWS photo
Syria “clearly and exclusively” bears the responsibility for the downing of a Turkish military jet in international airspace over the Mediterranean, Ankara has said, as international support for Turkey increases.
“The downing of the Turkish plane without any warning is totally unacceptable and the responsibility for this attack clearly and exclusively lies with Syria,” a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry said June 24. Turkey has said an F4 fighter jet was downed 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast in international waters, but crashed in Syrian territorial waters.
EU Minister Egemen Bağış yesterday said the downing of the warplane was set to become an international issue. “The attack on our plane is not solely a conflict between Turkey and Syria, but it is a matter of international diplomacy. … Turkey has not said its last word yet.” Bağış said the issue had aspects that would concern platforms such as the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, adding that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had acted attentively.
On the other hand, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek said Turkey was working to break the misinformation spread by Syria about the incident. “The international arena must be informed against Syrian lies. … Not distributing such [counter] information would create new problems,” he said, hinting at countermeasures.
EU not supporting military action
Çiçek said Syria had hit Turkish planes intentionally in international air space. On the international arena, EU foreign ministers condemned Syria’s actions, but said the bloc would not support military action in the troubled country.
“What happened is to be considered very seriously [but] we do not go for any interventions,” the Associated Press quoted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal as saying. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also urged calm. “I think it is still important that we continue to work on a political solution [to the Syrian crisis].”
“This plane was not carrying arms and was on a routine flight and was shot down. ... There was no prior warning, therefore this is completely unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. Ankara has called a meeting of NATO’s governing body today to discuss the incident.
A NATO official said the Turkish representative would inform his colleagues of what had happened. The envoys were expected to discuss Turkey’s concerns but would not decide on anything specific, said the official, who could not be named under standing rules.
EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the bloc would add another Syrian official and six firms and government institutions to its sanctions list. The list already includes over 120 individuals and nearly 50 institutions. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the attack “brazen and unacceptable” and said Washington would cooperate closely with Ankara to promote a transition in Syria. Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s executive committee has recommended suspending Syria’s membership.
Syria denies Turkey’s statements
DAMASCUS / ISTANBULi
The Turkish F-4 Phantom jet, recently downed in Syria, “violated Syrian sovereignty” and was downed by land-based anti-aircraft fire, not by a radar-guided missile, Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi said. “The Turkish warplane violated Syrian airspace, and in turn Syrian air defenses fired back and the plane crashed inside Syrian territorial waters,” he said in a news conference. He said the aircraft was sighted flying at “800 kilometers per hour” when it was “one or two kilometers from the Syrian coast.” The plane could not have been hit over international waters as the gun that hit it has a “maximum range of two and a half kilometers” and that “holes on the tail of the plane prove it was shot down by machinegun fire, not by missiles,” he said. Al-Makdissi said they delivered an official record to Turkey showing the holes in the tail-end of the plane which confirm it was shot down by a ground-based machinegun and not missiles. However, a senior Turkish official denied al-Makdissi’s statements over how the jet was downed, adding that no part of the plance was delivered to Turkey by Syrian officials. Al-Makdissi also said that Syria had suggested to Turkey the formation of a joint military technical committee to visit the site of the incident in Latakia in order to inspect what happened, but that Turkish side didn’t respond to it.