Turkey will take retaliatory steps against Syria for the downing of a Turkish military jet, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said yesterday, even as he suggested that the aircraft might have unintentionally violated Syrian airspace.
It was not clear if Gul was suggesting military retaliation, increased sanctions against Syria or other possible steps, including demands for an apology, and his aide would not comment on his statement. However, Turkish Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik said Turkey would retaliate “either in the diplomatic field or give other types of response.”
“Even if we assume that there was a violation of Syria’s airspace — though the situation is still not clear — the Syrian response cannot be to bring down the plane,” Celik told reporters.
“The incident is unacceptable,” he said. “Turkey cannot endure it in silence.”
Syria said on Friday its forces had shot down a Turkish military plane that entered its air space. The plane, an unarmed F-4, went down in the Mediterranean Sea about 13km from the Syrian town of Latakia, Turkey said.
The incident further escalated tensions between Syria and NATO-member Turkey. The two neighbors used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began in March last year, but Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime’s brutal response to the country’s uprising and is playing host to civilian and military Syrian opposition groups.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuoglu chaired a meeting yesterday with military officials during which they discussed possible steps and a search-and-rescue mission for the two missing pilots, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said the plane was not a fighter jet, but a reconnaissance plane and that Turkey was awaiting an explanation from Syria.
The president said Turkey was still trying to establish the exact circumstances of the incident, but said it was “routine” for jets flying at high speeds to violate other countries’ air spaces for short periods of time.
“These incidents are routine,” Gul said. “They are incidents that are not ill-intentioned and happen because of the speeds [of the jets].”
“Was that the case, or did [the incident] occur in our own air space, these facts will emerge,” he said. “No one should have any doubt that whatever [action] is necessary will be taken.”