News / Europe

NATO Condemns Syria for Downing Turkish Jet

Selah HennessyDorian Jones
NATO member states have condemned Syria for shooting down a Turkish military jet last Friday.

"We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms," said NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

He spoke Tuesday at a news conference in Brussels after a meeting of the ambassadors from NATO’s 28 member states. Rasmussen said NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey.

"It is another example of the Syrian authorities disregard for international norms, peace and security and human life," he said.

Turkish officials say the military jet was an unarmed plane on a training mission and was flying above international waters when it was shot down. Damascus says it acted in self-defense after the plane entered Syrian airspace.

The plane crashed into the eastern Mediterranean and its two pilots are still missing.

Tuesday’s meeting came under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty. That article says any country may consult fellow member-states if it considers its territorial integrity, political independence, or security to be under threat.

Rasmussen said NATO had not discussed Article 5 of the group’s founding treaty. Article 5 enables the use of force should a member come under attack.

Hopes for restraint

An international security expert at Britain’s University of Nottingham, Wyn Rees, said NATO is keen to demonstrate its support for Turkey.

"It's a very important state within the alliance. So the fact that it has now suffered this loss of an aircraft, it's important for the other NATO members to show solidarity " he said.

Rees said NATO also hopes to restrain Turkey from escalating the situation.

"The NATO members are not looking for a pretext on which to intervene and therefore they do not want one of their members to drag them into such an action."

Rees says he thinks this situation will be dealt with diplomatically. But he says by shooting down Turkey’s plane, Syria has raised new questions about its internal situation.

"For a country to kind of engage in such an act -- such a hostile act -- seems rather stupid frankly. And one wonders just how much control the Assad regime has over parts of the military now. It kind of raises that deeper question, is the military fully under the command of the civilian government?"

Warning from Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a stinging attack on Syria's rulers Tuesday, warning them of the "wrath of Turkey." Speaking in parliament, he declared Syria to be "a clear and present danger."  The prime minister also announced new rules of engagement for the Turkish army.

"Any military element from Syria moving too close to the Turkish border that is deemed a security risk will be seen as a threat and will be a military target," Erdogan said. "I am warning Syria it shouldn't make any mistake and test Turkey."

Analysts warn of the potential for confrontation as Syrian forces increasingly move closer to the Turkish border to curtail the smuggling of arms to the Free Syrian Army rebels.

Until now, the Turkish army has been under strict rules to avoid confrontation with Syrian forces.

During his address, the prime minister emphasized he is not looking for war.

"Turkey knows what it will do very well. We won't fall into the trap of war provocateurs," Erdogan said. "But we are not a country to sit by after the downing of our plane. We will keep our determination."

The Turkish leader said Turkey will give full support until the Syrian people "are relieved of this dictator," referring to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

Danger for monitors

The U.N. Security Council received a closed briefing Tuesday from U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. Diplomats say he told the council that the situation in Syria is too dangerous for U.N. monitors to resume their work there.

They say he added that the Syrian government also refuses to allow observers to use satellite telephones, which he called "key tools" to the operation.

The head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria, Major General Robert Mood, suspended operations on June 16 due to safety risks to the 300 observers. The U.N. has said attackers have targeted the observer team several times in recent weeks with gunfire and bombs.

Violence near Damascus

Rights activists reported heavy fighting in Syria between rebels and government forces in several areas Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army used artillery during clashes with rebels in Damascus suburbs that house families of army officers.

The Observatory also reported violence in the cities of Daraa, Homs, Aleppo, and Deir Ezzor, as well as in Hama and Idlib provinces.

The head of the Observatory, Rami Abdelrahman, said the Tuesday clashes and shelling killed 38 people, including 21 government troops, two defectors and 15 civilians and rebels.

Hennessy reported from London. Jones reported from Istanbul. Carla Babb in Washington contributed to this report.

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by: Mervin
June 28, 2012 6:16 AM
What did turkey do when isreal attacked and killed her citizens on the ship to Gaza strip?.turkey wil be soon the sick man of nowhere again.

by: Sam from: Accra
June 27, 2012 12:42 PM
Turkey decides to keep mute for two days after the incident until they are schooled on what to say before speaking andinvoking an article of the NATO constitution.
May i ask whether the NATO constitution allows it's members to fly their jets blatantly over the airspace of other countries for so-called training missions?
Keep shooting them down Syria, this is no Cyprus, Greece or Iraq.

by: Burak from: Turkey
June 27, 2012 4:51 AM
Turkey's jet was shot in international air zone.It accidentally had gone in Syrian air zone for ten minutes. Because of this, In this situation Turkey is right

by: Alaa
June 26, 2012 11:31 PM
Syrians need all the help they can get to topple the brutal dictator Bashar.

by: Frank B from: America
June 26, 2012 3:29 PM
Will NATO actually do anything? Or just kinda stare and their feet & mumble?

by: carolyn from: santa barbara, ca
June 26, 2012 3:26 PM
condemned I meant! not downed!

by: RB Bazzell from: Tennessee
June 26, 2012 3:25 PM
The NATO condemnation is meanignless when people die each day. UN Resolutions, NATO Condemnations - all serve no real purpose and mean notihng to the victims of social violence. Unlike Lybia and Egypt, these atrocities in Syria apparently don't incite the same political will with NATO as previuos actions demonstrated.

by: carolyn from: santa barbara, ca
June 26, 2012 3:24 PM
Ooooh I've been downed! Ouch! That hurts!! REALLY NATO!! So harsh!

by: Joe from: North Bay
June 26, 2012 3:14 PM
How do we know that airplane was in international waters? Turkey in the past has been a blatant disrespectful violator of airspace of every single one of their neighbours. Turkey most definetely has it's own hidden agenda for Syria. Looks good on Turkey, they are the regional bully.. when you play with the bull you get the horns. Not that I am saying Syria is totally innocent on any account. The facts need to be determined here, Turkey says the plane was unarmed, and Syria says it was defending itself. Both puppet regimes have a history of lying, and of torturing people. Who do you believe?

by: Jer from: Nebraska
June 26, 2012 3:03 PM
Funny when the UN condemns a country for an attack or action. Like that has any efect. They don't do anything but say, "We condemn the attack!" SO! The country who is condemned is laughing at it.
In Response

by: george pavlakis from: Las vegas nv USA
June 26, 2012 3:42 PM
What the NATO said?? They take the side of Turkey a country that violate the air spaces every day in Greece and Cyprus.
A country that imvaded the Island of Cyprus A country that donot OBEY any UN resoloutions on Human rights in Turkey or north Cyprus .
The Syryans are at war and the Spy plane from Turkey violate the Syrian air space.
The Syrians whas justified to shoot down the plane in the first place..The spy plane was there with USA orders
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