4 Jul 2012

Syria's Assad 'regrets' downing of fighter jet

3:06 pm on 4 July 2012

The Syrian president has told a newspaper he regrets "100%" the shooting down of a Turkish jet after it entered Syrian airspace.

The F-4 jet went down in the Mediterranean in May and the two pilots have not been found, the BBC reports.

In an interview with Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper, Mr Assad argues the plane was flying in an area previously used by Israel's air force.

The incident has heightened tensions between the two countries.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Syria's action and described the neighbouring country as a "clear and present threat".

Turkey's border areas were reinforced with rocket-launchers and anti-aircraft guns on Friday.

It has also emerged that the Turkish air force scrambled fighter jets on Monday for the third day in a row after Syrian helicopters were said to have approached the border.

In the newspaper interview, Mr Assad appears to try to cool the dispute, saying Syria had not and would not bolster its military presence, regardless of the actions of Mr Erdogan's government.