Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Nato to discuss Syrian air attack

Turkey's foreign minister says a Turkish jet was downed in international airspace after it mistakenly entered Syria (AP)
Turkey's foreign minister says a Turkish jet was downed in international airspace after it mistakenly entered Syria (AP)

Nato ambassadors will meet this week to discuss how to respond to Syria's downing of a Turkish jet in what Turkey insists was international airspace.

The incident has increased regional tensions caused by the conflict in Syria, where reports said nearly 40 people died in new clashes between rebels and regime forces.

The jet's wreckage was found in the Mediterranean at a depth of 4,265ft, Turkish state media said. The two pilots remain unaccounted for.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the jet was on a training flight to test Turkey's radar capabilities, not spying on Syria. He said the plane mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace on 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.

Syria insisted that the shooting was "not an attack" and that the aircraft had violated its airspace. But Turkish authorities said Syria didn't warn the Turkish plane nor send its own jets to confront it. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to make a statement on Tuesday and might announce retaliatory steps.

"No one should dare to test Turkey's capabilities," Mr Davutoglu said.

Meantime, at the request of Turkey, Nato's governing body will meet on Tuesday to discuss the incident, said Oana Lungescu, a Nato spokeswoman. The consultations were called under article 4 of Nato's founding Washington Treaty.

"Under article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened," Lungescu said. The North Atlantic Council - the ambassadors of the 28 Nato countries - will decide whether to respond, she said.

The last time article 4 was invoked was nine years ago - also by Turkey - after tensions with neighbouring 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 is unlikely the downing of the Turkish plane will change those calculations, despite Ankara's appeal for the Nato meeting.

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