06/25/2012, 00.00
TURKEY - SYRIA

Tension mounts between Ankara and Damascus. NATO and EU to debate shooting down of jet

The Turkish foreign minister says the attack occurred over international waters. Strong criticism from the U.S. and Britain. Syria lowers tones: "There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey." NATO’s difficult position.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Turkish military jet shot down by Syria June 22 last, risks becoming a "casus belli". After some reassuring statements in recent days, yesterday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey will discuss the incident and the possible answers with NATO. The issue will also be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers scheduled for today in Luxembourg.

In the days leading up to this the declarations of both Damascus and Ankara were measured: the Turks have even admitted that the fighter jet had violated Syrian airspace and naval forces of both states had been searching the waters for the two pilots off Latakia ( v.: 23/06/2012 Ankara acknowledges one of its planes may have strayed into Syrian airspace). Yesterday Davutoglu, while admitting that the F-4 Phantom may have entered Syrian airspace, said it "was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria." He also warned that "no one should dare to challenge the military might of Turkey."

The United States and Great Britain have both condemned the act. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that his country "condemns this blatant and unacceptable act" that shows "the Syrian authorities' callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security". UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Syrian military's actions were "outrageous" and underlined "how far beyond accepted behaviour the Syrian regime has put itself".

There are still very subdued tones on the Syrian side. Makdissi Jihad, spokesman for the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that " "There is no enmity between Syria and Turkey, but political tension [exists] between the two countries. What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters." 

Relations between Syria and Turkey, which share at least 900 km of borders, became strained after the revolts against Assad. Turkey supports the rebels and allows the flow of money and weapons to the insurgents, who Damascus defines "terrorists", through it's boarders.

At the same time, Ankara fears that Kurdish minority in Syria can give a hand to the Kurds in Turkey, who are fighting for autonomy.

Several analysts are wondering what Turkey will demand of NATO. In all likelihood there will be statements of solidarity with Ankara, but military actions or other punitive actions are unlikely. Various NATO member countries on an individual level support the revolt against Assad, but the organization has continually said that it had no intention of being involved in military operations - like those in Libya - that could destabilize the situation of the entire region.

 

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