Syria Official Says Damascus Did Not Know Downed Warplane Was Turkish

Washington Post cites spokesperson of Syrian Foreign Ministry as refuting Turkey's account of the incident, which heightened tensions between the one-time allies.

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A Syrian official denied that it had shot down a jetfighter that had entered its airspace knowing it was Turkish, the Washington Post reported on Monday, ahead of Turkey's planned consultations with NATO allies in wake of the incident.

On Sunday, Turkey said that Syria shot down its military aircraft in international waters, without warning and declared it would formally consult with NATO allies on a reaction.

Turkey issued a diplomatic note to Syria, state broadcaster TRT said without giving any further details.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told TRT the plane had been clearly marked as Turkish and said he did not agree with Syria's earlier statement it had not known the plane belonged to Turkey.

Envoys from NATO member states will meet on Tuesday after Turkey requested consultations over the downing of its military jet by Syria, a NATO spokeswoman said on Sunday.

"Turkey has requested consultations under article 4 of NATO's founding Washington Treaty. Under article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened," Oana Lungescu said.

However, speaking on Monday, spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry Jihad Makdissi was cited by the Washington Post as saying that Damascus valued its “brotherly” relationship with Turkey, adding, however, that the Turkish jet represented “a clear breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

In a news conference in Damascus, Makdissi claimed that the Turkish warplane was flying low and fast over Syrian territorial waters and that “Syria reacted to the breach. We had to react immediately. Even if the plane was Syrian, we would have shot it down.”

In response to Syrian claim it shot the Turkish plane in self-defense, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "There was no warning to this aircraft. It was just shot out of the sky. And that obviously is not in keeping with international norms in such incidents."

The Syria official's comments came after, earlier Monday, Turkey's state-run news agency says 33 more members of the Syrian military have defected to Turkey with their families.

The Anadolu Agency said that the group, which includes a general and two colonels, crossed into Turkey overnight. They were being hosted at a refugee camp near the border.

There was no further information on the group.

Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the regime, but most are low-level conscripts. The Free Syria Army, the loosely linked group of rebel forces, is made up largely of defectors.

A Turkish Air Force F-4 war plane fires during a military exercise in Izmir, in this May 26, 2010.Credit: Reuters



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