Turkey threatens action after Syria downs jet

By Suzan Fraser

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Turkey said after an April border shooting incident — in which two people in a Turkish refugee camp died— that it would call on its NATO allies to intervene if it felt its security was being threatened.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with military officials Saturday to assess what steps to take and to coordinate the search and rescue operation for the two missing pilots and the plane's wreckage, the ministry said. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to discuss the incident with Turkish opposition party leaders on Sunday, and the foreign minister would make a statement on the same day, an aide said.

A Turkish official familiar with the meeting said Turkey was examining the plane's radar route and other flight data to ascertain whether the aircraft was flying over Syrian territory when it was shot down. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists and would provide no further details.

Turkey, which is uneasy about Greek Cypriot gas exploration efforts around the island, is believed to have increased patrols recently over the eastern Mediterranean. Some analysts have speculated that the plane may have been spying on possible PKK rebels near Turkey's border. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this month warned about a massing of Syrian forces near Aleppo, saying such a deployment could be a "red line" for Turkey "in terms of their strategic and national interests."

In Baghdad, Zebari said Saturday that the recent defection of a Syrian pilot to Jordan and the downing of the Turkish jet showed that the Syrian conflict could have far-reaching repercussions.

"If this conflict were to turn into all-out sectarian or civil war, Iraq would be affected, Lebanon would be affected, Jordan would not be immune, (and) Turkey could be (affected)."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was "greatly worried" by the incident, urged a thorough investigation and welcomed Turkey's cool-headed reaction in the immediate aftermath.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was following the situation closely and hoped the incident would be "handled with restraint by both sides through diplomatic channels," a spokesman said.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and other government ministers urged restraint. "We must remain calm and collected," he said. "We must not give premium to any provocative speeches and acts."

The leader of Turkey's main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said the downing of the plane was unacceptable, but he also urged calm.

"All diplomatic channels must be kept open. We are expecting a coolheaded assessment of the incident," he said.

Associated Press writers Elizabeth Kennedy in Beirut, Lara Jakes and Kay Johnson in Baghdad, and Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to this report.

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