x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Turkey: jet downed in international airspace, not spying on Syria

Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet while it was flying in international airspace some 15 minutes after it momentarily strayed into Syria's territory.

ANKARA // Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet while it was flying in international airspace some 15 minutes after it momentarily strayed into Syria's territory, Turkey's foreign minister said today.

"According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria," Ahmet Davutoglu said.

"The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace," he said.

The minister said that there was no warning from Syria before it shot down the plane, which did not have arms and was flying on a training mission and undertaking a radar system test.

"The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission," he said.

Syria has said it took out the F-4 phantom jet on Friday after it violated its airspace. Yesterday, Turkey acknowledged that the plane may have done so in comments seen as a bid to cool tensions between the former allies.

In a statement issued after Syria confirmed it had downed the plane, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, said Turkey would take all necessary steps once it had established the facts.

Turkey, a Nato member, has become a major critic of President Bashar Al Assad over his brutal crackdown on opposition protests and rebel groups.

Turkey has taken in more than 30,000 civilians who fled the violence in Syria, housing them in camps near the border, according to foreign ministry figures.

Earlier this month, it hosted a key meeting of Syrian opposition activists.