Turkey jet downed in ‘international airspace’

Turkish media reports that plane wreckage was found in Syrian waters, as NATO schedules meeting to discuss incident.

Turkey has said that Syria shot down its military aircraft in international airspace and declared it would formally consult NATO allies on a reaction.

Turkey’s assertion came as reports said search teams had located the wreckage in Syrian waters at a depth of 1,300 metres.

Turkish news channels reported this on Sunday without citing a source after Ahmet Davutoglu , the country’s foreign minister, said search-and-rescue teams were still searching for the two missing pilots.

He said the search operations were in co-ordination with the Syrians, but could not be described as a “joint” operation.

Davutoglu said the plane had been clearly marked as Turkish and said he did not agree with Syria’s earlier statement it had not known the plane belonged to Ankara.

Speaking on state-run TRT television, said the F4 fighter plane “was hit when it was a distance of 13 miles from the Syrian coast”.

The plane entered Syrian airspace on Friday, but quickly left when warned, Davutoglu said.

He said the jet was on a training mission, and “not involved in any operation against Syria”. It was testing Turkey’s own radar and defence systems, he said.

Selcuk Unal, spokesperson for the Turkish Foreign Ministry told Al Jazeera that the shooting down of the Turkish jet was “a hostile act”.

Clinton’s condemnation

Davutoglu also said he also planned to set out Turkey’s case before the UN Security Council.

Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, condemned Syria on Sunday for the “brazen and unacceptable” shooting down of a Turkish fighter jet and vowed to work with Ankara on a suitable response.

“It is yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security,” Clinton said in a written statement.

Envoys from NATO member states will meet in Brussels on Tuesday after Turkey requested consultations over the downing of its military jet by Syria, a NATO spokeswoman said.

“Turkey has requested consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty. Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened,” Oana Lungescu said.

“The NAC (North Atlantic Council) will meet on Tuesday at Turkey’s request. We expect Turkey to make a presentation on the recent incident.”

Turkey had close ties with Syria before the uprising.

Humanitarian corridor

Turkey has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without UN Security Council approval.

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Antakya, said: “Turkey is interestingly enough not invoking Article 5, which states that ‘an attack on one is an attack on us all’. But [they invoked] merely the right of all NATO members to convene under Article 4 to discuss the issues facing a NATO member.

“We don’t seem to be at this stage facing … a serious escalation of hostilities, which is what was initially feared when the incident happened.”

Earlier on Saturday, Davutoglu had briefed world powers about the downing of its plane even as a joint search for the missing airmen continued.

Giulio Terzi, Italian foreign minister, on Sunday condemned the shooting down of the Turkish jet on an “inoffensive flight” as “a further extremely serious and unacceptable action by the Assad regime”.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss the Syria crisis, as well as Iran and Egypt, in Luxembourg on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies