Turkey is threatening action against Syria after the troubled nation took down a Turkish military jet on Friday, bit signals from both Ankara and Damascus show that neither want a military confrontation over the incident.
The Wall Street Journal reports that both the Turkish and Syrian navies are jointly searching an area of the Mediterranean sea about six miles west of Syria’s Umm al-Tuyour village, looking for the crew of the F-4 military jet. Saturday evening Turkish news networks reported no sign of the missing pilots.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul stated on Saturday that the country could not ignore the action by Syria, pledging that the government will do “whatever is necessary” once they have all of the facts regarding the incident.
USA Today reports that Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stated the plane’s downing was “not an attack.” Instead, he explained that:
“An unidentified object entered our air space and unfortunately as a result it was brought down. It was understood only later that it was a Turkish plane. There was no hostile act against Turkey whatsoever. It was just an act of defense for our sovereignty.”
Turkey’s President Gul did concede that the plane could have crossed into Syria’s airspace by accident, but that the act is “routine” for jets to unintentionally cross borders for short periods of time. The government has yet to describe the plane’s specific mission.
According to USA Today, Turkey’s Labor and Social Security Minister, Faruk Celik, stated that the nation will retaliate “either in the diplomatic field or give other types of response.” He went on to explain to reporters that:
“Even if we assume that there was a violation of Syria’s airspace — though the situation is still not clear — the Syrian response cannot be to bring down the plane. The incident is unacceptable. Turkey cannot endure it in silence.”
Yahoo News reports that the joint recovery operation was likely sitting uneasily with both countries, due to the hostility over Assad’s 16-month-long fight against his opponents. Iraq has said that the incident marks a huge escalation in the Syrian conflict and demonstrates its potential to spill into other countries in the region. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said in Baghdad that:
“No country is immune from this spillover because of the composition of the societies, the extensions, the connections, the sectarian, ethnic dimensions. This is not an excuse to do nothing about Syria, no. But there will be an impact.”