The Turkish Foreign Minister announce 7:30 GMT Sunday that Turkey would be consulting with its NATO allies with regards to a response to the shooting down of a Turkish Air Force F-4 Phantom reconnaissance jet by Syria. As a NATO member Turkey has the right to call upon military support from the NATO alliance if it is attacked and some have said they consider the Syria downing of the jet an act of war even if the jet was in Syrian air space. The NY Times is reporting this morning:
“Next week permanent council of NATO will be informed,” the foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a Twitter message posted Sunday from his official account.
In another posting Sunday, he said Turkey would invoke Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which provides for consultations when a member is attacked. He did not cite the much stronger Article 5, in which an attack on one member is considered an attack on all NATO countries and obliges a concerted response.
The posting came after Mr. Davutoglu told state-owned television that an analysis of radar, visual and communications data had confirmed that the aircraft, identified as an American-made F-4 Phantom, had been struck by Syrian antiaircraft weapons outside of Syrian airspace.
“Our plane was hit in international airspace, 13 nautical miles out of Syria, when Syrian territorial space is 12 miles,” he said in a statement on TRT-TV.
The network also reported that the wreckage of the aircraft had been found Sunday, along with the ejection seats, off the Syrian coast in 3,200 to 9,800 feet of water. The search continued for the pilots or their bodies, the report said.
In a posting on its Web site, the state television network, said Turkey had asked for the NATO meeting on Tuesday.
Since the Turkish warplane disappeared from radar two days ago and Syria announce that they had shot it down this story has continued to develop. Once Turkey determined that the plane had been shot down they said that they would began an investigation after which they would take "determined action." From the NY Times again:
Syria has insisted that although it shot down the plane, that was not an attack because the plane was flying low into its air space and appeared to have hostile intentions.
“It was an accident, certainly not an attack,” the Syrian foreign minister, Jihad Makdissi, told the Turkish news channel A Haber on Saturday.
Syria said the plane was shot down a kilometer into its air space but most Turkish observers have insisted that modern jets cover that distance in seconds and overshooting a border isn't that uncommon. They have said that this happens all the time up on the Turkey-Greek border without incident. Since a state of war does not exist between the two countries, some have said the shoot down was tantamount to an act of war.
It is not likely that Assad would want to pick a fight with Turkey now. The Turkish military is more than twice the size of the Syrian military in pretty much every category, and now the Syrian military is reported to be falling apart with massive desertions at all levels. Only Thursday, four high level Syrian officers announced their defection to the Free Syrian Army on a YouTube Video and on that same day, a Syrian Air Force Colonel flew his Mig-21 to Jordan and deflected.
In fact, as I said in my diary Friday, I think their is a direct connection between the defection of the Mig-21 pilot and the shoot down of the Turkish plane. The Syrians have insisted that the Turkish plane was shot down by accident. They have even gone so far as to say they didn't know it was Turkish, when they shot it down. That implies that Assad had issued orders to shot down anything off of a fight plan and he might have issued such orders to thwart further pilot defects.
Of course, just why the Turkish warplane was shot down becomes secondary now. It was shot down, the pilots are most probably dead and Turkey is in no mood to make light of this.
I have just one more thing to throw into the mix at this juncture. Al Jazeera has a very good reporter on the ground, Anita McNaught, apparently she spends her time crossing the border [illegally] between Syria and Turkey. Well, yesterday's report was on a village on the Turkish coast near Syria, near where the plane was shot down. She said the people she talked to spoke of two Turkish jets flying fast and low up the coast. This was not routine. It had happened only once before, a week ago. But they said there were two of them, and nobody else, not the Syrians or the Turks have mentioned a second jet.
In Other news, the Russian cargo ship loaded with refurbished helicopters that was forced to turn around, is reported to be headed back out again: According the the Chicago Tribune:
"A military-diplomatic source in Moscow told Interfax that (the ship) will go from Murmansk to Syria. According to his information the ship should travel under escort," the news agency reported.
The ship Alaed, which entered the Russian port of Murmansk on Sunday to change its flag to the Russian Standard, will not be accompanied by military vessels, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The report did not say how the ship had resolved its insurance problems or what difference the flag change would make.
Russia acknowledged on Thursday it was trying to send repaired combat helicopters - not new equipment - to Syria.
Here are my related diaries:
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout