Erdogan Warns Damascus
ISTANBUL (Combined Sources)—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ratcheting up the pressure on Syria over the shooting down of a Turkish military plane on Friday. Addressing parliament Tuesday, he launched a stinging attack on Syria’s rulers, declaring the country “a clear and present danger” and warning Damascus of the “wrath of Turkey,” reported the Associated Press.
Meanwhile in Brussels, NATO member states ondemned Syria for shooting down the Turkish military jet last Friday.
“We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms,” said NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
He spoke Tuesday at a news conference in Brussels after a meeting of the ambassadors from NATO’s 28 member states. Rasmussen said NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey.
“It is another example of the Syrian authorities disregard for international norms, peace and security and human life,” he said.
Russia said on Tuesday Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish warplane should not be seen as a provocation and warned world powers against using the incident to push for stronger action against Damascus, reported Reuters.
It was Moscow’s first reaction to Friday’s downing of the Turkish military aircraft.
“It is important that what happened is not viewed as a provocation or a premeditated action (by Syria),” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Moscow repeated its calls for restraint, warning that any political escalation would be “extremely dangerous” and threaten international efforts to salvage a moribund six-point Syrian peace plan drawn up by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
“Any military element from Syria moving too close to the Turkish border that is deemed a security risk will be seen as a threat and will be a military target,” Erdogan said, announcing new rules of engagement for the Turkish army. “I am warning Syria it shouldn’t make any mistake and test Turkey.”
During his address, Erdogan reiterated that the plane was shot down without warning and over international waters, a claim disputed by Damascus. The Turkish prime minister said Syria will pay a high price, although he emphasized he is not looking for war.
“Turkey knows what it will do very well. We won’t fall into the trap of war provocateurs,” he said. “But we are not a country to sit by after the downing of our plane. We will keep our determination.”
On Monday, 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.