"Syria shot Turkish plane without warning" Ankara says
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The Turkish government has refuted a statement from the Syrian Foreign Ministry that said Damascus acted in self-defense in shooting down a Turkish warplane on June 22, Turkish sources told the Hürriyet Daily News today.
“We have necessary information showing that the Turkish plane was shot at without any warning,” an official source said on condition of anonymity.
“We are 100 percent right and the act of Syrian regime is against all dynamics of international law,” Ömer Çelik, the deputy chairman in charge of foreign policy for the ruling Justi ce and Development Party (AK Parti), said on his Twitter account. “All data about the incident confirms that.”
A more detailed announcement about Turkey’s reaction is expected to be made tomorrow (Sunday) morning by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who has attended all three high-level security meetings and has been engaged in intense diplomacy since the incident took place.
One June 22, a Turkish F-4 Phantom reconnaissance plane which took off from an air base in the eastern province of Malatya, which also hosts the NATO-run missile shield radar, was shot down by Syria’s air defense system near the Syrian city of Latakia, which is close to the Russian naval base at Tartus.
The Syrian government said it shot down the plane in Syrian air space in self-defense before realizing that it was a Turkish plane. The aircraft’s two Turkish pilots are still missing.
Davutoğlu’s telephone diplomacy included the secretary general of the United Nations, the foreign ministers of all P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China and Germany), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Iran (which also called Ankara to “express concern”), the foreign and security commissioner of the European Union and the secretary general of the Arab League, a diplomatic source told the Daily News.
In another important development, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked for appointments from the leaders of the other three main political parties in the Turkish Parliament on Sunday in order to explain the details of the incident and discuss the matter, the Prime Minister’s Office has announced.
This is an unusual move and has caused speculation about a possible parliamentary decision which is a requirement for any foreign military action according to the Turkish Constitution. “We are not considering a military action now,” a source told the Daily News. “But we want to inform the opposition and we want to keep all options open.”
The opposition has taken an unusually calm stance regarding the downed plane. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told reporters that there were “a lot of questions to ask” but that the situation currently had to be dealt with calmly.
Turkish-Syrian relations have been deteriorating since the Bashar al-Assad regime started to crush the Syrian opposition, which has been demanding more rights as a result of the Arab Spring.
Currently there are more than 33,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, including 12 army officers above the rank of brigadier-general or higher. Also, the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army have their main headquarters in Turkey.