Turkey aims for NATO help with Syria (+video)
Following Syria's downing of a Turkish jet on Friday, officials in Turkey are looking to NATO for assistance. Syrian officials claim their act was one of self-defense.
Turkey is to demand backing from its NATO allies on Tuesday at a special meeting called after Syrian troops shot down a Turkish warplane last week in an incident Damascus said was self-defence but which Ankara branded an "act of aggression".Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Life in the Syria-Turkey border
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It is only the second time in NATO's 63-year history that it has convened under Article 4 of its charter which provides for consultations when a member state feels its territorial integrity, political independence or security is under threat.
Turkey rejected assertions from Damascus that its forces had no option but to fire on the F-4 jet as it flew over Syrian waters close to the coast on Friday.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Turkey condemned the "hostile act by the Syrian authorities against Turkey's national security", saying it posed "a serious threat to peace and security in the region".
The incident has further heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria already strained to near breaking point over the 16-month uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule.
Though not known for his restraint, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has so far been measured in his response, perhaps due to Western reluctance to commit to any military action and wary himself of anything that could trigger a regional sectarian war.
European Union foreign ministers called on Monday for Turkey to show restraint, saying they would increase pressure on Assad.
"Military intervention in Syria is out of the question," said Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal.
After a seven-hour Turkish cabinet meeting in which an air force chief gave a detailed briefing on Friday's incident, Arinc said Erdogan would make an announcement on Syria on Tuesday.
Syria's description of the event as an act of self defence, though tempered with commitment to a "neighbourly relationship", seemed likely to further anger Ankara.
Act of Defence
"The plane disappeared and then reappeared in Syrian airspace, flying at 100 metres altitude and about 1-2kms (0.6-1.2 miles) from the Syrian coast," Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a Damascus news conference.
"We had to react immediately, even if the plane was Syrian we would have shot it down," he said. "The Syrian response was an act of defence of our sovereignty carried out by anti-aircraft machinegun which has a maximum range of 2.5 km."
Syria warned Turkey and NATO against retaliating.
"NATO is supposed to be there to strengthen countries," said Makdissi. "If their meeting is for hostile reasons (they should know that) Syrian land and waters are sacred."