Sun June 24, 2012
Turkey Denounces Syrian Action Against Its Plane
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And let's turn now to a developing story involving Turkey and Syria. This morning, Turkey issued its first official response since one of its reconnaissance planes was shot down by Syrian air defense. The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is charging that the incident is an act of aggression and he says Turkey will take its case to NATO and to the United Nations. There are now reports that earlier this morning, search teams located the wreckage of that F-4 jet in Syrian waters. And for an update, we've turned to NPR's Deborah Amos joining us from Beirut. Hey, Deb.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hey, good morning.
GREENE: So, this interview with the Turkish foreign minister, it sounds like the first official response after really a couple of days of tension. What did he have to say?
AMOS: Well, this was after Turkey's security council met and an investigation on the Turkish side. He gave a very detailed account of this flight. He said the jet was unarmed, clearly marked. It was on no covert mission. And the jet strayed into Syrian airspace. Turkish air control immediately alerted the pilot. The foreign minister said the Syrians shot down the jet 15 minutes later with no warning when the pilot was back in international waters and the jet crashed in the Mediterranean. His account contradicts the Syrian version of events in a number of important ways. The Syrians say they didn't know it was a Turkish jet. They said the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire in Syrian airspace. And the Syrian foreign minister spokesman appeared on Turkish television last night to say it wasn't an act of aggression. Turkey's foreign minister dismissed all of those claims.
GREENE: What exactly is Turkey planning on doing now? I mean, when they say going to NATO, going to the United Nations, what does that exactly mean?
AMOS: Well, they've called for a NATO meeting and will consult with NATO allies on Tuesday. The foreign minister stopped short of calling for any armed response, but this is the second serious provocation between the two neighbors. Back in April, the Syrian military shot across the Turkish border. They killed two Syrian refugees, wounded 20 others, including a Turkish policeman. So, as a NATO member, Turkey threatened then to invoke the NATO charter, which says that NATO members can call for consultations. The foreign minister did say that Turkey's response would be measured and not sudden and then they will take it the U.N.
GREENE: Let's talk about this in the context of what's happening in Syria. I mean, in the uprising and criticism in the West of President Bashar al-Assad, I mean, Turkey, Syria, they were allies. Turkey has grown very critical of the Syrian government over the past few months. I mean, how could this incident sort of affect that whole crisis?
AMOS: Well, you can certainly tell by the reactions. The Iraqi foreign minister said, whoa, you guys, you know, pull it back, please. There's increasing fears of spillover as Syria slides into all-out civil war. At the same time, Turkey is giving shelter to thousands of Syrian refugees and also armed rebels, who are challenging the Syrian regime. Now, Syria and Turkey are cooperating on this search. As you mentioned, they found the wreckage. Both countries have been on the phone with each other, even though both countries have pulled their diplomats. Turkey is very angry about what happened, but it's not clear if there's an appetite to move beyond these diplomatic measures.
GREENE: That's NPR's Deborah Amos reporting from Beirut. Deb, thanks a lot.
AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.