Turkey insists jet was downed in international airspace
Published Sunday, July 1, 2012
Turkey's military insisted on Sunday that a jet fighter shot down by Syrian forces on June 22 was in international airspace, and not inside Syria, as claimed in a newspaper report citing US intelligence.
The Turkish F-4 Phantom "was downed over the eastern Mediterranean in international airspace...while it was flying solo and unarmed, and testing our existing radars' performance in the region," the army's general staff said in a statement posted on its website.
The statement followed a report in the Wall Street Journal citing US intelligence that claimed the plane was "most likely hit by shore-based anti-aircraft guns while it was inside Syrian airspace."
The Turkish army statement said the jet had violated Syrian airspace for "about five minutes."
The two-man crew are still missing, the army said, adding that the US exploration ship, the Nautilus, was expected in the area Monday to assist in search and wreckage recovery efforts.
Syria has said that the shooting down of the plane was necessary as it was flying low inside the country's territory.
"The Turkish warplane violated Syrian airspace, and in turn Syrian air defenses fired back and the plane crashed inside Syrian territorial waters," Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference last week.
He added that the Turkish jet had been flying at little over 100 meters altitude, saying that "even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down."
The downing of the jet has threatened to lead to further conflict between the two countries, with Turkish troops reported to be deploying close to the Syrian border.