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POLITICS > Turkish rescue plane also attacked by Syria

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Al-Assad forces fired on a Turkish-flagged search and rescue plane which rushed into Syrian airspace to locate the downed Turkish jet and its two missing pilots, Western diplomats reveal to Hürriyet Daily News

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Serkan Demirtaş Serkan Demirtaş serkan.demirtas@hdn.com.tr

Syrian security forces fired on a Turkish-flagged search and rescue plane which rushed into Syrian airspace to locate the downed Turkish F4 jet and its two missing pilots June 22, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned from Western diplomatic sources.

“[In addition to] what we have seen in the media, we have been informed that Syrian forces opened fire on another Turkish plane [which had come to the region] as part of the search and rescue operation,” sources told the Daily News on the condition of anonymity.

This information was shared with the ambassadors and defense attachés of the Arab League, European Union and NATO countries during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry yesterday. The Turkish search and rescue plane immediately left Syrian airspace after the shots. Local eyewitnesses reported a second plane leaving the same region over the Mediterranean Sea the afternoon of June 22, which could possibly be this Turkish search and rescue plane. Amid sound and fury over the shooting down of the Turkish jet, there was also another row between Turkey and Syria on the coordination of the search and rescue operation. The Syrian side offered to conduct a joint operation but attached certain conditions.

One of the conditions was that Syria wanted to seize the Turkish jet and take the Turkish pilots for the completion of necessary procedures as they had been in Syrian territorial waters. The Turkish side strongly rejected the idea and informed Syrian forces that Turkey would carry out its own search and rescue operations and would not leave its pilots and jet in the hands of Syria.

For this reason Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu denied that there was a joint search and rescue operation with Syria in his remarks yesterday. “This cannot be described as a joint operation. We are in coordination with the Syrians as this operation is being carried out in their territorial waters,” Davutoğlu said. The search and rescue operation is expected to end tomorrow.

In the same briefing, Turkey told foreign ambassadors that Syrian air forces had violated the Turkish border five times in recent months but had not been intercepted as these had not been considered “hostile” moves. The Turkish side implemented rules of engagement in these cases but did not respond to them in the way Syria did to the Turkish jet.

Searches go on for hit jet

ANKARA

Turkey sent additional vessels to the eastern Mediterranean after the wreckage of the downed jet was identified at a depth of 1,300 meters in the Mediterranean Sea. “Our priority is to save our pilots. We have sent another search and rescue vessel to the area [where] we believe our jet fell..The sea depth is around 1,300 meters in the region” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said and requested steadiness from the families of the two pilots. The missing pilots are Capt. Gökhan Ertan and Lt. Hüseyin Aksoy. Turkish naval and air forces have been carrying out search and rescue operations since late Friday but no wreckage of the plane or pilots could be found. A vessel equipped with the technology necessary for a more detailed search has already been dispatched to the area to assist ongoing efforts of Turkish and Syrian guard boats.


June/25/2012

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