Turkey threatens action after Syria downs jet

CAIRO — Turkey's president said Saturday that his country would do "whatever is necessary" in response to the downing of a Turkish military jet by Syria, adding a new complication to the tense relationship between the former allies split by Turkey's support for Syrian rebels trying to overthrow the government.

"It is not possible to cover over a thing like this," said President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, according to the Anatolia news agency. "Whatever is necessary will no doubt be done."

Syria said Friday that its forces had shot down a Turkish jet that had entered its airspace just off the Syrian coast. But Gul said Saturday that while the exact route of the plane had not been confirmed, it was routine for military jets flying at high speeds to briefly cross into another country's airspace, and that the jet's presence over Syrian territory was not intended as a hostile act.

The plane went down over the Mediterranean off the coast of the Syrian province of Latakia and south of the Turkish province of Hatay. On Saturday, Turkish officials confirmed parts of the jet had been recovered.

Gul said the two governments were communicating at a high level despite the absence of a Turkish ambassador in Syria since Turkey closed its embassy in March. Syria's state news agency, SANA, reported that the Syrian and Turkish navies had established contact and were searching for the missing pilots.

Syria appeared eager to try to defuse the crisis. "We have no hostile intentions against Turkey," Jihad Makdessi, a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, told the Lebanese broadcaster LBC.

But Gul's promise to respond — he did not specify whether he meant diplomatic or military measures — signaled Turkey's anger. Faruk Celik, Turkey's labor and social security minister, said that even if Syria's airspace had been violated, the Syrian response was unacceptable, according to The Associated Press. "Turkey cannot endure it in silence," Celik said.

Other Turkish officials urged restraint. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Turkey was awaiting an explanation from Syria about the downing of the plane, which he said was an unarmed surveillance craft. He called for calm while the details were sorted out.

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

Turkey threatens action after Syria downs jet 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 10:36pm]

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