ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone. AA photo
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone has dismissed speculation over where a Turkish jet was shot down on June 22, noting that the primary concern for Washington was that it was hit without warning.
“This is unacceptable. We are in solidarity with Turkey. All other details have no importance,” Ricciardone told reporters late yesterday on the sidelines of an Independence Day reception.
The U.S. ambassador’s words came following inquiries about foreign media reports which questioned Turkey’s version of the downing of the RF4-E jet by Syria on June 22. Russian
media suggested the jet was shot down in Syrian airspace while trying to test Syria’s radar capacity. Turkey maintains that the plane was shot down in international airspace.
Ricciardone said Turkey was working hard to shed light on the incident. In his address to invitees, the ambassador described the two Turkish pilots as “heroes” and said, “Our hearts are with the families of the pilots.”
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said the two Turkish pilots sacrificed their lives for the protection of the liberty of their country. “We will never forget them,” he said, adding that a ceremony would be held tomorrow in the eastern province of Malatya, the site of the base from which the men launched their ill-fated mission.
The Turkish military announced yesterday that the wreckage and the bodies of the pilots had been located.
Work is underway to bring the bodies and all parts of the wreckage to the surface, Yılmaz said. “We will try not to leave any single part of our jet on the seabed.”