Syrian forces knew the identity of a Turkish military jet before shooting it down over international airspace, according to Turkey’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“Radio communication among Syrian authorities clearly demonstrates that the Syrian units were fully aware of the circumstances and the fact that the aircraft belonged to Turkey,” Ertugrul Apakan said in a letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon obtained Monday. He said Syrian forces also shot at a Turkish rescue plane even after Turkey “established coordination with the Syrian authorities.”
Syria’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, said Monday that the shooting of the plane took place inside the country’s airspace and was a defensive act following a “clear violation of Syrian sovereignty.” He also described it as an “accident.”
Turkey’s latest allegations about last week’s events off the coast of Syria further raised tensions ahead of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting on the incident in Brussels scheduled for Tuesday. It was convened by Turkey, which has said it will respond decisively to the Syrian attack. Relations between the neighbors and former allies were already strained by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on anti-government protesters, which has left more than 10,000 people dead.
Turkey has called on Assad to step down, and Syria has criticized its northern neighbor for hosting meetings of Syrian opposition groups. US intelligence officials are working in southern Turkey to channel arms paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Syrian opposition groups, The New York Times reported last week. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denied the report.
Turkey invoked article four of the NATO treaty in seeking Tuesday’s meeting, Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told the state-run Anatolia news agency late Monday. The article entitles a member country that is attacked or threatened to summon the rest of the alliance for consultations.
Turkey hasn’t invoked article five, which requires members to recognize an attack on one as an attack on all and to assist the violated country in any action it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, Arinc told Anatolia. The deputy premier had said after a cabinet meeting earlier yesterday that Turkey had cited both articles in convening today’s meeting.
Arinc said Syria’s “hostile” act won’t go unpunished. He also said that Turkey “has no intention of declaring war on anyone” and will act within the framework of international law.