25 Jun 2012

NATO meeting called by Turkey

7:31 am on 25 June 2012

Turkey has called a meeting of NATO members to discuss its response to the shooting down of one of its warplanes by Syrian forces on Friday.

The Turkish government says the F-4 Phantom was in international airspace when it was shot down.

Syria has insisted the jet was engaged while it was inside its airspace.

It has also said no act of hostility was intended, noting that as soon as the military discovered the unidentified aircraft was Turkish, the navy joined efforts to rescue the two crew members.

The Turkish foreign ministry said it knew the coordinates of the jet, which was in Syrian territorial waters at a depth of 1300 metres, but has not yet found it.

The coast guard is still searching for the crew in the Mediterranean Sea, though hopes are fading of finding them alive.

The BBC reports the government has also issued a diplomatic protest note to Syria.

Strong response promised

The government has promised that its response to the incident will be strong, decisive and legitimate.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that the jet was not on a covert mission related to Syria but had been carrying out a training flight to test Turkey's radar capabilities.

He said the plane had not shown any hostility, been clearly marked as Turkish, and that he did not agree with the Syrian military's statement that it had not known to whom it belonged.

The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 Phantom at 11.58am on Friday while it was flying over Hatay province, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya.

Turkey and Syria were once close allies. But relations between them have deteriorated sharply since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

More than 30,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey.

US comment

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the incident as brazen and unacceptable.

Mrs Clinton says the United States will co-operate with Turkey to promote regime change in Syria.

Ms Clinton said the shooting down of the jet was another reflection of Syrian disregard for international norms, human life and peace and security.