Turkey’s downed jet: NATO action in disguise?

Posted on June 26, 2012


Turkey is pushing NATO to regard Syria’s recent downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the alliance. NATO is gathering to discuss the incident, while some see parallels with the events that preceded NATO’s campaign in Libya.

­Turkey insists that its unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down in international airspace on Friday while testing a domestic radar system. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also said Monday that Syrian forces had opened ground fire on a search and rescue plane shortly after the first jet was downed.

Turkey has also requested that NATO hold a meeting under Article 4 of the alliance’s treaty, which allows a NATO member to request a consultation if it feels a threat to its territorial integrity or security. The meeting is due to take place on Tuesday. The alliance will consider classifying the Friday incident as an armed attack under Article 5, which states that an attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against all NATO members.

“We have no intention of going at war with anyone,” AP quoted Arinc as saying. The deputy PM added, however, that Turkey retained its right to “retaliate” against a “hostile act” and assured that his country “has made necessary applications regarding Article 4 and Article 5.”

In order to be approved, any potential action requires a consensus between all ambassadors of NATO’s 28 member states.

Turkish authorities admit that their jet strayed into Syrian airspace, flying at an altitude of some 70 meters, but they also insist that the aircraft had left Syrian airspace after a warning from Turkish radar operators. The Syrian side dismissed the latter statement, explaining that the jet was shot down by a short-range air defense artillery gun, and not a longer-range radar-guided missile. This would only be possible if the jet was in Syrian airspace.


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