Turkey Promises To Retaliate After Syria Shoots Down Turkish Military Jet
Turkey promised to offer Syria a “necessary” response after Syrian forces downed one of its military jets in the Mediterranean, near the sea border, the president of Turkey Abdullah Gul promised on Saturday. It was not clear to which sort of response Gul was referring, though he admitted that the air jet might have violated Syrian space. The Turkish and Syrian armies mounted a joint operation intended to retrieve the airmen on board the jet.
Turkey may increase economic sanctions, demand an apology or take other kind of steps to retaliate against Syria, with which it already is at odds, as the Turkish government is one of the most serious critics of the Assad regime, and Turkey is the place where the resistance can find refuge.
Turkey says that an unarmed F-4 was shot down by Syrian forces 13 kilometers from Latakia port of Syria on Friday. Syria said that the plane had entered its space, prompting the Labor and Security minister Faruk Celik to say that even if the case was true and the air jet had entered Syrian space, the response should have been different than to shoot it down.
Turkey said that it could not overlook the incident and suffer it in silence, and promised that it would be avenged. However, the fact that it did not react on impulse was praised by the German Foreign Minister, while the Iraqi Foreign Minister said that the defection of a Syrian pilot to Jordan, and the shooting of a Turkish jet show that the Syrian conflict could have international regional repercussions.
On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu chaired a meeting with the leaders of the army with the purpose of thinking possible responses to the incident and creating a team to look for the survivors. There were no press releases after the meeting.
The Turkish president explained that it was “routine” for high-speed jets to unintentionally cross into neighboring countries’ airspace due to the speed and that these incidents should not be seen as ill-intentioned.
The Syrian state-run news agency said late Friday that the military had spotted an “unidentified aerial target” flying at high speed and low altitude, and that the anti-air defenses have hit it directly. The agency added that the jet was Turkish and that it was “dealt with according to laws in observance in such cases.”
Syria claims that the jet violated the Turkish air space by entering 1 kilometer into the Syrian waters, and that the military found out that it was Turkish after firing on it.
Turkish media, which had on Saturday banner headlines like “Syria Plays with Fire” or “Syria Will Pay the Price,” announced that some wreckage of the plan have been found, but that the quest for the two crew members was still on.
The Turkish opposition leaders joined those in power in urging calm and cool heads, while condemning the downing of a plane as unacceptable.
Reuters cites an American professor in Beirut who speculates that Turkey may have sent the jet in connection to the Kurdish activities in the southeast of Turkey, as Turkey may suspect Syria and Iran of helping the Kurds somehow. The same professor expressed confidence that the Turks will not engage the Syrians because they are “at tight leash by the United States,” which does not want a war in the region.
In April, when Syrian troops opened fire across the border with Turkey, Turkey contemplated the idea of invoking the Five Article of the NATO Charter referring to the obligation of the states to support an attacked member state. It is not clear what Turkey will do this time.11