NATO condemns Syria; Erdogan issues warning
NATO officials meeting in Brussels condemn Syria for the destruction of a Turkish warplane last week.
By SES Turkiye -- 26/06/12
NATO condemned Syria on Tuesday (June 26th) for shooting down a Turkish warplane, calling it the latest example of Syria's disregard for "international norms, peace and security, and human life." Turkey's prime minister, in Ankara, also issued a strong warning, saying the incident has changed the terms of engagement on the Turkey-Syria border.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses ruling AK Party MPs during a meeting at parliament in Ankara on Tuesday (June 26th). The Turkish Armed Forces' rules of engagement have changed as a result of Syria shooting down a Turkish warplane and they will respond to any violation on the Syrian border, Erdogan said. [Reuters]
NATO officials met in Brussels at Turkey's request after the downing of a Turkish F-4 by Syrian forces off the coast near Lattakia on Friday. Turkey called the incident a "hostile act," and said they had evidence that Damascus knew it was their jet before shooting it down without warning. Syria maintains that the jet was in Syrian airspace.
"However valuable Turkey's friendship is, its wrath is just as strong. Don't take our common sense and cautious approach as a sign of passivity," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech Tuesday to his ruling AK Party deputies in parliament. "Radar findings are all clear. They downed a reconnaissance jet that was on a solo test flight. This is a hostile act."
In a statement, NATO announced its support for Turkey. "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms. It is another example of the Syrian authorities' disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life.
"Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the missing Turkish aircrew, their families and their loved ones. We continue to follow the situation closely and with great concern," the Alliance said in the statement.
At a news conference in Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Alliance would not immediately respond should Syria down another Turkish aircraft.
"I would expect Syria to take all necessary acts to avoid such events in the future," Rasmussen said.
Erdogan told AK Party officials that Turkey is changing its tactics in light of the incident.
"The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed. Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria by posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target," he said.
He said Syrian helicopters have violated Turkish airspace five times recently, without Turkish response.