ANKARA- Turkey said on Monday Syrian forces had fired towards a Turkish military transport plane involved in a search for an F-4 reconnaissance jet shot down by Syria last week, but the second aircraft was not brought down.
The disclosure of the second incident came on the eve of a NATO crisis meeting that Turkey summoned to address the shooting down of its F-4 jet, which Ankara has described as an unprovoked attack in international airspace.
Despite deep frustration among many NATO countries over the conflict in Syria, where the opposition says President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has killed 14,000 people, it’s highly unlikely the military alliance will take armed action against the Arab state.
The unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down a mile (1.6 kilometres) inside international airspace on Friday, and two Turkish pilots are still missing, the Turkish government says.
Syria has officially acknowledged shooting down the F-4 phantom jet after it violated its airspace, but insists it only identified it as a Turkish fighter after the fact.
"What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say," Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told the Al-Watan pro-government daily on Sunday.
“Turkish Jet, which was downed by Syrian forces, had violated Syrian airspace.” the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Maqdissi said Monday.
He added that Syria “could take positive steps if the Turkish government takes similar steps.”
Syrian FM spokesman also indicated “The rescue efforts are underway with the coordination of all sides. We found the wreckage of the jet and Turkey was informed about it.”
But Turkey said that the incident would "not go unpunished" but it did not intend to go to war over it.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference that Turkey would protect itself within the framework of international law against what it called Syria's "hostile action" of downing its F-4 warplane last week.
Arinc said at the end of a seven-hour cabinet meeting dealing with the incident "Everyone should know that this kind of action will not remain unpunished."
But he added, "Whatever is needed to be done will definitely be done within the framework of international law. We have no intention of going to war with anyone. We have no such intent."
Ankara, like the West, is torn between a wish to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the fear that any armed intervention could unleash uncontrollable forces.