Miffed with Syria, Turkey takes jet downing issue to NATO

Turkey on Sunday appealed to Nato state members to meet and discuss the response over the issue.

Updated: Jun 24, 2012, 23:25 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Ankara: In wake of its jet being downed by Syria in “international space”, Turkey on Sunday appealed to Nato state members to meet and discuss the response over the issue.

Turkey invoked the article 4 of North Atlantic Treaty according to which any ally can request consultations with NATO state members, whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

Meantime, at the request of Turkey, NATO`s governing body will meet Tuesday to discuss the incident, said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokeswoman.

Turkey`s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday said that Syria on Friday shot down their jet F-4 Phantom in international airspace and the jet`s wreckage was found in the Mediterranean at a depth of 4,265 feet (1,300 meters).

According to Davutoglu, the plane entered Syrian airspace on Friday, but quickly left when warned by Turkey.

Davutoglu further said that said the jet was not on any spying mission to Syria but on a training flight to test Turkey`s radar capabilities.

He said the plane mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace Friday, but was quickly warned to leave by Turkish authorities and was a mile inside international airspace when it was shot down off the coast of Latakia.

Turkey claims that the jet was in international airspace when attacked, but Syria’s stance is that the jet was in Syrian airspace.

Two pilots remain missing.

The Turkish and Syrian navies have launched a massive joint rescue operation to trace them.

Syrian government on Saturday said it holds no hostility towards Turkey despite its tough rhetoric.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has vowed to do whatever is required following the incident

Though, Turkey’s appeal to call Nato meet over the issue does reflect the seriousness of the standoff between the two nations which have already been at odds over Assad’s rule, it does not connote that the situation would snowball into a wider controversy.

The last time article 4 was invoked was nine years ago also by Turkey after tensions with neighboring Iraq escalated. However, that case did not lead to the invocation of article 5, which declares that an attack against any single NATO country shall be considered as an attack against them all.

Despite some opposition leaders` calls for Western military intervention in Syria, the United States and allies have been hesitant to get involved in what could prove a protracted conflict, preferring the diplomatic route. Syrian allies Russia and China have already shielded Syria from UN sanctions and stridently oppose any military intervention.

It`s unlikely the downing of the Turkish plane will change those calculations, despite Ankara`s appeal for the NATO meeting.

In October 1989, two Syrian MiG-21s violated Turkish air space and shot down a Turkish plane on a geographical survey mission, killing all five crew members. Syria at the time promised to severely punish the pilots, who disregarded Turkish orders not to enter Turkish airspace.

With Agency Inputs