‘Turkish jet shot down in international airspace without warning’

‘Turkish jet shot down in international airspace without warning’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
‘Turkish jet shot down in international airspace without warning’

AP Photo

A Turkish jet shot down by Syria on June 22 was done so without warning in international waters, Turkey has said, adding that it was consulting with NATO allies on a possible reaction.

According to sources, the discussions could involve invoking Article 4 of the alliance’s charter, which calls for consultations among member countries when the security of any parties is involved.

"Our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told TRT television yesterday.

After a short, unintentional violation of Syrian airspace, the plane returned to Turkish airspace after being warned by its own radar that it strayed over the air border, the minister said, adding that Syria shot down the plane after it had returned to international airspace.

“The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace," he said, adding that Syria was trying to link the two incidents.

Dismissing Syria’s allegations that it did not know the plane was Turkish, the minister said Turkey had intercepted radio communications from the Syria side suggesting that they knew it was a Turkish aircraft.

“We have both radar info and Syria's radio communications,” Davutoğlu said, adding that there was no warning from Syria before the attack.

"The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission," he said.

“The aircraft did not have arms and was flying on a training mission to conduct a national radar system test for national security over recent [developments] along the Mediterranean coast,” he said, adding that it was alone, had no hidden identity and had no mission to gather any kind of information.

The minister said search and rescue operations for its pilots were not joint operations with Syria but coordinated with the country, since the plane crashed into Syrian waters after being struck.

Turkey will consider response

“Turkey is not a country to give sudden and unrestrained reaction,” the minister said, adding that Ankara would act on the basis of international law while reserving all its rights.

“There is an aggression against the Turkish plane which was flying in international airspace without any hostile intention. No one should try to test the capacity of Turkey,” the minister said, adding that Ankara would take determined steps but that its current priority was to locate the pilots.

Ankara will inform the international community about the details of the incident, the minister said, while accusing Syria of spreading disinformation.

Davutoğlu has had a series of telephone conversations with ministers of NATO members and regional countries, including Russia and Iran, since late June 23, the minister said.

Davutoğlu said his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, had called to say it would be useful to stay in touch and added that he had asked for support from his Iranian counterpart.

Turkey also asked Russia for any additional information on the incident.

Turkey will brief the NATO Council, as well as the U.N. Security Council, on the incident this week, the minister said.

“Turkey is neither the planner nor the cause of the events in Syria,” Davutoğlu said in reference to the Arab republic’s crisis, which has driven a wedge between Ankara and Damascus.

Davutoğlu also said Ankara would continue to support the Syrian people.