Ankara tries to manage crisis with Syria over plane
Murat Yetkin [email protected]
Ankara has been trying to resolve the crisis which was started by the shooting down of a Turkish F-4 reconnaissance jet by Syrian air defense in Syrian air space over the Mediterranean on June 22.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolu chaired a crisis management meeting at his ministry on June 23 in Ankara which the deputy chief of Turkish General Staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and head of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MT) Hakan Fidan also attended. That was the second in a row in the last 24 hours. The first one, chaired by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan and attended by Gen. Necdet Özel, Davutolu and other top government officials was held last night following the incident after which Turkey confirmed that the F-4 had been downed by Syria and two Air Force pilots were missing.
By that time Damascus had already announced that it was they who shot the plane with Russian-made anti-aircraft batteries and later on they understood that it was Turkish. This is understandable since the Bashar al-Assad regime is in big trouble inside because of the civil war and outside it has been vulnerable to Israeli attacks a number of times before; Turkey and Israel use similar types of American-made war planes.
The Turkish reconnaissance plane, which took off from Malatya air base (where recently a NATO radar was based as a part of the Missile Shield System), seemed to be on an intelligence mission in the east Mediterranean. President Abdullah Gül on June 23 said the Turkish plane might have violated Syrian air space by mistake because of its high speed. That is why Turkey is trying not to escalate the scandal by making a statement blaming Syria and not immediately calling NATO for joint action.
The opposition parties are well aware of that. Kemal Klçdarolu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has said there were a number of questions to ask to the government but Turkey should act in calm and try to solve the crisis through diplomatic means.
The incident has put Turkish foreign policy regarding Syria in additional difficulty. Turkey has been actively taking part in supporting the Syrian opposition in their struggle to depose the al-Assad regime. Turkey has been hosting more than 35,000 refugees from Syria including 12 army officers of brigadier general and higher ranks; they are in contact with the Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army, both having central missions in Turkey.
Following Saturdays meeting at the Foreign Ministry a third meeting was called by Erdoan in order to find the proper move to make regarding the incident; one of the most difficult decisions to take in recent years.