Syrian air defenses had to react immediately to a Turkish jet flying at 100 meters altitude inside Syrian airspace in what was “a clear breach of Syrian sovereignty”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said on Monday.
“We had to react, even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down,” he told a news conference about the incident on Friday.
Makdissi said the jet- a Turkish airforce F4 Phantom- was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, not by a radar-guided missile.
Despite the incident Syria remains committed to a “neighborly relationship” with Turkey, Makdissi said.
“The Turkish warplane violated Syrian airspace, and in turn Syrian air defenses fired back and the plane crashed inside Syrian territorial waters,” Makdissi told the news conference that, he said, would “refute the lies” of Turkish officials.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t find the pilots but we did find the wreckage of the fighter jet,” Makdissi said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu earlier warned Ankara’s southern neighbor not to challenge his country’s military.
Davutoglu told Turkey’s TRT television that, “according to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria.”
“The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission,” he said. “Nobody should dare put Turkey’s (military) capabilities to the test.”
The Syrian foreign ministry spokesman warned NATO that its territory is “sacred” ahead of an emergency meeting of the alliance on the shooting down of the Turkish warplane.
“If the goal of the meeting (on Tuesday) is to calm the situation and promote stability, we wish it success,” Makdissi said.
But “if the goal of the meeting is aggression, we say that Syrian airspace, territory and waters are sacred for the Syrian army, just as Turkish airspace, territory and waters are sacred for the Turkish army,” he added.
Turkish-Syrian relations were already strained by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s outspoken condemnation of the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown, which rights activists say has killed more than 15,000 people since March 2011.