Turkey’s Foreign Minister challenges Syria’s account of shooting down Turkish jet

Turkish coast guard searches for warplane which was downed by Syria off Samandagi in Hatay province, June 24, 2012

From Jonathon Burch, Reuters:  Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking some 48 hours after the jet was shot down near both countries’ sea borders, told state broadcaster TRT the plane had been clearly marked as Turkish and dismissed Syria’s earlier statement it had not known the plane belonged to Turkey.

He said the downed jet was unarmed and had been on a solo mission to test domestic radar systems and that the flight had no connection to the crisis in neighboring Syria.

"Our plane was shot at a distance of 13 sea miles from Syria’s border in international airspace," Davutoglu said.

"According to the radar images, our plane lost contact with headquarters after it was hit and because the pilot lost control, it crashed into Syrian waters after making abnormal movements," he said.

"Throughout this entire period no warning was made to our plane. . . ."

Davutoglu dismissed Syria’s explanation, saying the plane’s identity was clear for all to see and said Damascus was transmitting "disinformation" to the Turkish public.

He said the downed jet had briefly crossed into Syrian airspace 15 minutes before it was shot down but had then also received no warning from Syria. He said such flights often cross into other countries’ airspace.

Davutoglu said the search for the missing pilots was continuing in coordination with the Syrian authorities, but said it could not be described as a joint operation.

From the BBC:  The Turkish foreign ministry said it knew the coordinates of the jet, which was in Syrian territorial waters at a depth of 1,300m (4,265ft), but has not yet found it.

The coast guard is still searching for the crew in the Mediterranean Sea, though hopes are fading of them being found alive.  (photo: AP)

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