Turkey called for a NATO meeting and issued a stark warning to Syria on Sunday over a downed Turkish fighter jet, raising fears that the incident could send tensions soaring in the region.
The moves came after Ankara accused Damascus of shooting down a Turkish F-4 phantom jet on Friday when it was clearly in international airspace after briefly straying into Syrian territory.
Search teams have located the wreckage of the jet in Syrian waters at a depth of 1,300 meters, Turkish news channels reported on Sunday, without citing a source, reported Reuters.
“According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told TRT television.
“The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace,” he said.
The minister said that there was no warning from Syria before it shot down the plane, which was on an unarmed training mission to carry out a radar system test.
“The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission,” he said, adding that the plane was flying by itself and was not “on any mission, including information gathering, above Syria.”
He also warned about challenging his country militarily.
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.
“The NAC (North Atlantic Council) will meet on Tuesday at Turkey’s request. We expect Turkey to make a presentation on the recent incident.”
British Foreign Minister William Hague condemned Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish jet as “outrageous” on Sunday and said Britain was ready to support robust action against Syria by the United Nations Security Council.
Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, however, called for restraint and for the maintainance of regional stability.
Relations between onetime allies Turkey and Damascus have plummeted since the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly criticized Assad’s handling of what started out as peaceful protests against the decades-old rule by his family and what has today become a bloody conflict that has left more than 15,000 people killed according to activists.
Earlier this year Turkey withdrew diplomats from its Damascus embassy.
Turkey has taken in more than 30,000 civilians who fled the violence in Syria, housing them in camps near the border, according to foreign ministry figures and earlier this month, it hosted a key meeting of Syrian opposition activists.
Tensions between the neighbours spiked in April after stray bullets fired on the Syrian side of the border killed two Syrians on Turkish soil.
Syria claims shooting “terrorists”
Meanwhile, Syrian border forces on Sunday confronted “terrorists” who had infiltrated from Turkey and killed several of them, the official Syrian state news agency said.
The agency did not give further details. Turkey said on Sunday one of its military aircraft shot down by Syria on Friday had been attacked without warning, and declared it would formally consult with NATO allies on a reaction.