Ankara insists Syria shot jet in int’l waters
KAYSERİ / ANKARA
Turkish jet's mission profileThe Wall Street Journal is engaged in biased journalism and is taking sides ahead of the coming U.S. elections, Turkey’s prime minister has said following the Turkish military’s denial of the report which contradicted Ankara’s version of the events surrounding the June 22 downing of a Turkish jet by Syria.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected WSJ’s recent claims that the plane was shot in Syrian airspace, citing senior U.S. defense officials as a source.
“Who are these sources?” Erdoğan asked during an event in the central Anatolia province of Kayseri, calling on the WSJ to reveal its sources and accusing the paper of “cowardice” by concealing the origin of their stories. “They have published lies before.”
Erdoğan also criticized the local media for accepting the WSJ story as truth and rejecting the reports from Turkish authorities, such as the military and the Foreign Ministry. Erdoğan connected the WSJ’s reports to the coming elections in the United States, saying the stories stemmed from the anti-Barack Obama attitude in the country. Erdoğan also criticized main opposition Republican and People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for siding with Syria’s Baath regime and Israel instead of supporting Turkey. “Unfortunately [Klılıçdaroğlu] is not hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with this country’s values. [He stands] shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s values, and the Baath regime,” said Erdoğan.
An unarmed Turkish military jet was shot down June 22 by Syria. Turkey claims the plane was shot in international airspace with a heat- or laser-guided missile, but Syria rejects the claims, saying the Turkish jet was shot by anti-aircraft gunners as it flew at an altitude of 100 meters within Syrian airspace.
Erdoğan’s remarks came after Turkey’s military denied WSJ’s report, expressing that the incident occurred over international waters while showing a map showing the plane’s alleged position.
“According to the results of an administrative probe and radar tracks, our jet was shot down 13 nautical miles off of Syria, one nautical mile outside Syria’s 12-nautical mile territorial waters, and crashed 16 kilometers (8.5 nautical miles) off the Syrian coastline after losing altitude and speed,” the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a written statement it posted on its website yesterday.
The army said it felt the need to clarify the incident following the WSJ report, which said Turkey’s explanation of the incident raised question marks. An anonymous American official has said the incident occurred close to the Syrian coast and that there was no indication that the jet was downed by a laser-guided missile, as would be necessary if it were hit in international airspace. Despite the army’s claims that the shooting took place outside of Syrian airspace, the military did not challenge claims that it may have been shot down by an anti-aircraft weapon. The statement repeated that the jet was unarmed and flying solo as it tested Turkey’s radar capabilities – indirectly responding to the WSJ’s report that it was testing Syria’s radar reactions.
Foreign Ministry officials echoed the military’s statement, adding that they were not in a position to make comments about press reports. “We have not been contacted by American officials on the points raised by this newspaper,” an official said.
The army also said there had been no progress in locating the plane’s two missing pilots but said the U.S. vessel Nautilus was expected to reach the region late today to locate the wreckage of the Turkish aircraft.