World

Turkey to push NATO on jet downing by Syria

Turkey says it will push NATO to consider Syria's downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the whole military alliance.

Turkey wants NATO to consider attack as attack on alliance

A Turkish F16 jet fighter. An unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down Friday in international airspace, the Turkish government says. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

Turkey has said it would push NATO to consider Syria's downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the whole military alliance.

The announcement came Monday on the eve of a meeting by NATO's governing body to discuss the incident. Despite deep frustration among many NATO countries over the conflict in Syria, where the opposition says President Bashar Assad's crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has killed 14,000 people, it's highly unlikely the military alliance will take armed action against the Arab state.

The unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down 1.6 kilometres inside international airspace on Friday, and two Turkish pilots are still missing, the Turkish government says.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also said for the first time that Syrian forces had opened ground fire on a CASA search and rescue plane shortly after the downing, but did not say if that plane was hit.

Arinc said Turkey retained its right to "retaliate" against what he called a "hostile act," but he added, "We have no intention of going at war with anyone."

Attack against all members

Turkey will push NATO to consider the armed attack under Article 5 in a key alliance treaty, Arinc said. Article 5 states that an attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against all members.

The North Atlantic Council — which includes ambassadors of the 28 NATO countries — works by consensus and all members must approve any action. The meeting Tuesday comes after Turkey requested it under Article 4 of the treaty, which allows a NATO ally to request such a consultation if it feels its territorial integrity or security has been threatened.

Asked if Turkey will insist on the activation of Article 5 of NATO, Arinc said, "No doubt, Turkey has made necessary applications regarding Article 4 and Article 5."

Arinc further strongly denied Syrian claims that the downed plane was shot by anti-aircraft fire while flying low inside Syrian airspace.

The deputy premier admitted the jet mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace when it was flying at an altitude of 200 feet and at a speed of 300 knots, but said it left the Syrian airspace after warning from Turkish radar operators and that it received no warning from Syrian forces during its five-minute flight inside Syrian territory.

Arinc reiterated Turkey's insistence that the plane was not spying on Syria but just testing Turkey's radar capabilities.

"There is no doubt that Syrians deliberately targeted our plane in international airspace," Arinc said, accusing Syria of acting in a "cold-blooded" manner.