Turkey to Consult NATO Over Downing of Jet by Syria

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ISTANBUL -- Turkey's foreign minister said Sunday that his country would discuss the downing of one of its military jets by Syria with its NATO allies next week.

As a NATO member, Turkey could ask for concerted action by the alliance.

"Next week permanent council of NATO will be informed," the foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a Twitter message posted Sunday from his official account.

In another posting Sunday, he said Turkey would invoke Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which provides for consultations when a member is attacked. He did not cite the much stronger Article 5, in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all NATO countries and obliges a concerted response.

The posting came after Mr. Davutoglu told state-owned television that an analysis of radar, visual and communications data had confirmed that the aircraft, identified as an American-made F-4 Phantom, had been struck by Syrian antiaircraft weapons outside of Syrian airspace.

"Our plane was hit in international airspace, 13 nautical miles out of Syria, when Syrian territorial space is 12 miles," he said in a statement on TRT-TV.

The network also reported that the wreckage of the aircraft had been found Sunday, along with the ejection seats, off the Syrian coast in 3,200 to 9,800 feet of water.  The search continued for the pilots or their bodies, the report said.

In a posting on its Web site, the state television network, said Turkey had asked for the NATO meeting on Tuesday.

Syria has insisted that although it shot down the plane, that was not an attack because the plane was flying low into its air space and appeared to have hostile intentions.

"It was an accident, certainly not an attack," the Syrian foreign minister, Jihad Makdissi, told the Turkish news channel A Haber on Saturday.

The episode was another blow to relations between the neighbors, who were close before President Bashar al-Assad of Syria began his crackdown on Arab Spring protests 16 months ago, setting off a revolt by political and militia groups now supported by Turkey.

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been one of the most strident critics of Mr. Assad's government and its long crackdown, which has killed thousands since it began in March 2011. Since then, Turkey has allowed more than 32,000 refugees to seek shelter in a string of camps across its 550-mile border with Syria. It has also provided crucial support to dissident groups and the Free Syrian Army, an anti-Assad militia whose leaders live under the protection of Turkish security forces in a fortified camp near the Syrian border.

Mr. Davutoglu said Sunday that the Turkish jet was not on a covert mission, but a training exercise. Turkey had not yet decided what action to take, he said.

Mr. Erdogan met with his military chiefs on Saturday, for his third high level crisis meeting since the downing of the jet, and then convened a meeting with leaders of Turkish opposition parties on Sunday. At least publicly, Mr. Erdogan has been noncommittal in his response to the incident.

On Sunday, however, Mr. Davutoglu's Twitter feed suggested that Turkey was hardening its stance.

"No one should try to test the capacity of Turkey," he wrote, and in another post said Turkey would invoke Article 4 of NATO's charter, under which an ally can request consultations if it has been threatened by another country.

"Turkey has never acted alone concerning Syria" Mr. Davutoglu wrote, adding that the country has always been part of regional and international initiatives. He said the aircraft was flying alone, without weapons and Syrian authorities had made no attempt to contact it.

    When Turkish authorities realized the plane had strayed into Syrian airspace, the pilots were warned to leave by their own radar system and Turkish authorities, and did so immediately. Minutes later, the Syrians fired on the plane.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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