Turkish military jet missing near Syrian border
Turkey‘s government called an emergency meeting Friday after one of its military jets went missing near the Syrian border.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could not confirm reports that Syrian anti-aircraft defenses shot down the Turkish jet.
He said Turkish assault boats and helicopters as well as Syrian boats were conducting a search along the Mediterranean coastline between the Turkish province of Hatay and the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia.
“There is no confirmed information that Syria apologized,” Erdogan said. “This will become clear in the meeting we are about to have now.”
The Turkish military said the plane took off from Malatya Erhac Center and lost radar communication over the sea near Hatay province, which borders Syria.
Erdogan said there was no information on the status of the pilots.
The U.S. military is aware of the downed plane, a Department of Defense official told CNN.
“We would, of course, help with any search and recovery efforts if asked, but it’s not a typical area where we would have assets close enough to assist on such short notice,” the official said.
Initial reports to the U.S. military indicated that two pilots were on board, and it was possible that one or both may be alive.
The official said the United States had no confirmation the Syrians were responsible for bringing the plane down but added that “it’s possible, if the plane got within range of Syria’s surface-to-air missile defense system.”
More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have spilled onto Turkish soil, and Turkey is hosting a number of Syrian opposition groups.
“Most importantly, Erdogan said that Turkey was a member of NATO, and if [the plane’s downing] were an attack on NATO, then it would be NATO who would make a response,” said Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Istanbul.
NATO-member Turkey, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, turned against the Syrian leader when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world.
Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without UN Security Council approval.
Russia and China, Assad’s strongest backers abroad, have fiercely opposed any outside interference in the Syrian crisis, saying envoy UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan‘s peace plan is the only way forward.
Annan hit out at some countries he said had taken national initiatives that risked unleashing “destructive competition“.
He told a news conference in Geneva on Friday that he wanted states with influence on both sides of the conflict to be involved in the peace process, including Iran, Assad’s closest ally.
»Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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