Turkey, Syria Rift Widens
ANKARA, DAMASCUS (Combined Sources)—Turkey will demand NATO support Tuesday at a special meeting after Syria downed a Turkish warplane, which both sides agree had entered Syrian airspace on Friday.
However, an effort to quell the unrest by both sides soured on Sunday, when Turkey called the incident an “act of aggression.” On Monday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference that Syria’s actions “would not go unpunished,” while claiming that Syrian forces shot down a second plane on its way for a rescue mission. This report has not been confimed.
Syria’s foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi told a press conference Monday that the Syrian response to the Turkish military aircraft which blatantly violated Syrian borders was a defensive and sovereign act, and that “Syrian territories, waters and airspace are sacred,” reported the SANA news agency.
Makdessi said that what happened was a blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty according to international law, which is confirmed by facts, information, and that Turkey also admitted to the violation of Syrian airspace and territorial waters.
The spokesman called into question Davutoglu’s assessment of the events. In an interview with TRT TV Sunday, the Turkish Foreign Minister claimed that the aircraft was hit and crashed in international waters.
Makdessi pointed out that the Syrian anti-aircraft defense used a land-based anti-aircraft machinegun with a maximum range of 2.5 kilometers, and that the wreckage found by the Syrian authorities and delivered to the Turkish side with an official record shows holes in the tail-end of the plane which confirm that it was shot down by a ground-based machinegun, not missiles.
“Had the aircraft been over territorial waters, we would have used missiles, not a land-based anti-aircraft machinegun with a maximum range of 2.5 kilometers… all of this confirms the fallacy of the allegations that the aircraft was shot down outside Syrian territorial waters,” he said.
In response to Davutoglu’s statement that the aircraft wasn’t alerted, Makedessi said that the Syrian anti-air defenses operate automatically in such cases, and that even if the unidentified aircraft was Syrian, it would have been shot down in the same manner, adding that that machinegun that shot down the plane isn’t equipped with radar; rather it had visual confirmation of it approaching at a distance of 1 to 2 kilometers at an altitude of 100 meters and at a speed of 800 kph.
Makdessi also added that Turkey did not immediately respond to Syria’s suggestion to form a joint military technical committee to visit the site of the incident in Lattakia, saying the rescue operations are ongoing with coordination between the two sides, which resulted in finding the wreckage and delivering it to the Turkey. The two pilots have not been found.
Makdessi expressed hope that Davutoglu would make reconsider its posturing, adding that Syria has no ill intentions toward Turkey. , adding “There is a crisis in Syria, but the solution cannot be through aggravating, mobilizing and arming the movement in Syria, nor through hosting entities that do not believe in a political solution but rather believe in militarizing the movement and undermining the stability of the neighboring country, Syria.”
Tuesday’s NATO meeting will be the second time the alliance convenes under Article 4 of its charter which provides for consultations when a member state feels its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat.