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 Turkish president says downing of fighter by Syria cannot be ignored

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Turkish president says downing of fighter by Syria cannot be ignored  23.6.2012  

Turkish president Abdullah Gul. Photo: Getty Images
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Turkey vows 'necessary' action against Syria, a day after Damascus said it shoots down a Turkish fighter jet

June 23
, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey,— Turkey's president says his country would take the "necessary" action against Syria, a day after Damascus said it had brought down a Turkish military plane that had entered its air space.

Abdullah Gul said Saturday that Turkey was still trying to establish the exact circumstances of the incident and whether the jet may have been brought down in Turkish territory.

The incident further escalated tensions between the two neighbors, which used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began in March 2011. Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's brutal response to the country's uprising.

Turkish media say that Syrian and Turkish coast guards are conducting a joint search mission for the jet's two missing crew members on Saturday.

Earlier, Syria's official news agency SANA confirmed that Damascus had downed the jet.

A military spokesman told SANA that "an unidentified aerial target violated Syrian airspace, coming from the west at a very low altitude and at high speed over territorial waters" in the eastern Mediterranean before being shot down.

SANA reported that the two countries' navies were now cooperating in an operation to find the two missing pilots.

Turkish President Gul also said Ankara had been in telephone contact with Damascus and that a search operation for the plane and missing pilots was still under way.

On June 22, the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement that Turkey would decide on a course of action once all the facts are in.

Erdogan made the statement after an emergency cabinet meeting with the military. His office also said that search-and-rescue operations were continuing for the missing pilots.

Turkish media had reported earlier that Syria had apologized for the incident, but Erdogan made no mention of any apology.

Turkey's military provided no details on the plane's mission, but some Turkish TV reports said it was on a reconnaissance flight.

The incident is likely to further sour relations between Damascus and Ankara, which has backed calls for Bashar Assad to step down over the uprising in his country. Turkey has withdrawn its diplomatic personnel from Syria,www.ekurd.net saying its safety was in danger.

Turkey also has set up refugee camps on its border for more than 32,000 Syrians who have fled the fighting.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc later said the jet had been on a reconnaissance mission, state television reported.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Istanbul reports that the Turkish government is treating the loss of the aircraft very seriously, but also with great caution.

Despite public anger over the suffering of civilians in Syria, Ankara has been very reluctant to consider military intervention, our correspondent says.

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