Saturday, June 23, 2012

Turkey promises 'determined' response after Syrian forces admit they shot d

Turkey promises 'determined' response after Syrian forces admit they shot down air force jet leaving two pilots missing

by Suzannah Hills,
June 22nd 2012

Turkey promised to respond 'determinedly' tonight after the Syrian military admitted shooting down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean Sea.

Two Turkish pilots are still missing after their air force jet was downed by Syrian forces in an act which has escalated tensions between the neighbouring countries.

Syria said it shot down the F4 phantom jet because it was flying 'over Syrian territorial waters'.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today led a two-hour security meeting on the crisis.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the government said it 'will determinedly take necessary steps' in response, without saying what they would be.

It comes after the Syrian military confirmed it had brought down the plane over the eastern part of the sea, southwest of the Turkish province of Hatay, which borders Syria.

'Our air defences confronted a target that penetrated our air space over our territorial waters pre-afternoon on Friday and shot it down,' a statement by the military circulated on state media said.

'It turned out to be a Turkish military plane.'

The incident threatens to worsen relations between the two countries, which have already become strained in recent months.

Turkey has joined nations such as the US in saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down because of the uprising in his country.

Turkey also has set up refugee camps on its border for more than 32,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting.

Erdogan confirmed that the plane went down some eight miles (13km) from the Syrian town of Latakia over the Mediterranean Sea.

He said: 'Four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there.'

A search and rescue operation was launched and Turkey's government has called an emergency security meeting.

The jet had taken off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya shortly before all contact with the aircraft was lost.

Turkey's military confirmed it lost contact with the aircraft over the sea close to the border with Syria.

Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar television station claimed that Syrian security forces were responsible after a source told the TV channel that Syrian air defences shot down the Turkish military aircraft.

The station reported: 'Syrian security sources confirmed to a Manar correspondent in Damascus that Syrian defence forces shot down the Turkish fighter jet.'

it's alleged the plane strayed one kilometre into Syrian airspace.

Ilter Turan, a professor of political science at Istanbul's Bilgi University, told NTV that Syria's action was clearly 'hostile,' even if it violated its air space.

'They could have either sent their planes to confront it or force it to land, it is a hostile act by any standard,' Turan said.

Turan, however, predicted that Syria will try to avoid escalating tensions further

This latest incident could further threaten relations between the two countries already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Assad.

Syria and Turkey have expelled each other's ambassadors and Syria has accused Turkey of supporting Syrian opposition and even allowing Syrian rebels to operate out of Turkish soil.

Turkey strongly denies the allegations.

After a cross-border shooting by Syrian forces in April, Turkey said it would not tolerate any action that it deemed violating its security. The firing had left two refugees dead at a camp near the town of Kilis just inside Turkey.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal earlier on Friday rejected allegations that Turkey was sending arms and other equipment to Syrian rebels as baseless. Unal said Turkey was not sending weapons to any of its neighbors, including Syria.

Turkey's military provided no details on the downed plane's mission Friday, but some Turkish TV reports said it was on a reconnaissance flight.

Violence raged unabated in Syria yesterday, as the nation appears to be sliding toward a sectarian-tinged civil war pitting majority Sunni Muslims against Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

Four high-placed Syrian military officials – two brigadier-generals and two colonels who are all brothers – announced their defection from the army yesterday.

The Turkish lira fell sharply following news of the jet incident and analysts said it would be vulnerable to further losses as more details of the incident emerged.

'The lira eased after reports saying the Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian air forces. If this is confirmed, we can see more of a sell-off in the lira,' said Suha Yaygin, an emerging markets trader at TD Securities.

The lira fell to 1.8151 to the dollar after the news report, from around 1.8075 beforehand.

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