Turkey Takes Jet Downing to NATO, Syria Tension Soars

Turkey Takes Jet Downing to NATO, Syria Tension Soars
NATO today said it will discuss Turkey's accusation of Syria shooting down one of its warplanes in international airspace, as Damascus suffered heavy losses and violence scaled new heights.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Ankara's southern neighbour not to challenge Turkey's military, as Britain, another member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, offered its support for "robust" international action.

"According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria," Davutoglu told Turkey's TRT television.

"The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission," he said. "Nobody should dare put Turkey's (military) capabilities to the test."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "The (President Bashar al-) Assad regime should not make the mistake of believing that it can act with impunity. It will be held to account for its behaviour".

NATO said it will meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue following a request by Turkey.

"Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened," a NATO spokeswoman said.

Damascus said it downed the F-4 Phantom on Friday after it violated Syrian airspace.

Turkey had yesterday acknowledged the plane may have done so, in comments seen as a bid to cool tensions between the former allies, but it now appears to have taken a harder stance.

"Syria was merely exercising its right and sovereign duty and defence," Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi was quoted as saying on Sunday in Al-Watan, a pro-government daily.

"There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension (exists) between the two countries.

"What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters," Makdissi said.

CNN-Turk television, meanwhile, reported that search and rescue teams have located the wreckage of the jet at a depth of 1,300 metres (yards), but did not give its precise location. Ankara said it could not confirm the report.

Turkey-Syria relations have already been strained by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's outspoken condemnation of the Assad's regime's bloody crackdown, which rights activists say has killed more than 15,000 people since March 2011.
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