- Last Updated: 7:02 AM, June 24, 2012
- Posted: 12:40 AM, June 24, 2012
Syria tried to avoid a counterattack yesterday by joining the search for the two pilots of a Turkish fighter plane it shot down over the Mediterranean.
The Assad regime’s help came as Turkish leaders met in Ankara with army and intelligence chiefs for the second straight day to determine their next step.
Turkey says it will announce its response to the incident today. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said his government would do “everything required” upon establishing all the facts, but did clarify what it meant.
Syria’s downing of the Turkish F-4 fighter jet Friday was an unprecedented attack between the two neighbors.
Syrian officials claim the plane was hit over the Arab nation’s waters. Syria’s Defense Ministry said it learned the plane was Turkish only after it had been shot down.
But Syria’s foreign ministry tried to de-escalate the incident by claiming the downing should be thought of “as an accident, certainly not an attack.” A spokesman said Syria has no hostility toward the Turkish government or people.
Gul said the Turkish warplane’s action was not provocative, and that it’s “routine” for jets to briefly cross into foreign territory.
The tensions were difficult to gauge yesterday as mixed reports emerged from the area.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, once a supporter of the Assad regime, has repeatedly called for the dictator to step down over crackdowns against the Syrian opposition.
As a member of NATO, Turkey could seek the intervention of more powerful allies such as the United States and Britain. As yet, it has made no such request.