Syria’s stance “is a hostile one” and the short violation of airspace “cannot justify an unfair, unlawful and unconscionable attack,” Erdogan said Tuesday.
Adding insult to injury, Syrian jets strafed a Turkish search-and-rescue plane that had crossed into Syrian airspace with permission after the shoot-down, Turkish officials said.
“We brought the plane back and we told (the Syrians): ‘Look what you’re doing,’ ” spokesman Unal said. “They gave no explanation. They said it won’t happen again.”
The F-4 went down in about 3,000 feet of water, and there’s been no sign of the two-man crew. Turkish media identified them as Goekhan Ertan, the captain, and Hueseyin Aksoy, the co-pilot.
In Brussels, the North Atlantic Council met Tuesday at Turkey’s request under Article Four of the NATO treaty, which provides for consultations at the request of any party to the pact. In a statement that followed, NATO members said they considered the Syrian shoot-down “to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.” The statement said it was another example of the Syrian authorities’ “disregard for international norms, peace and security and human life.”
It was only the second time in NATO’s history that such consultations were held, the first occasion being in 2003, also at Turkey’s request. The timing of the meeting, four days after the incident, and the fact that Turkey hadn’t requested the consultation under Article Five, which provides for allied military support, underscores that NATO, too, was giving a measured response.
Turkish leaders have been chafing since the Syrian uprising began early last year that key Western partners, starting with the United States, refuse to take a lead in possible military action to bring down the Assad government, officials say.
Even though more than 30,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey, bringing tales of Syrian government attacks on civilians and the widespread use of torture, Turkey also has been unwilling to take the lead beyond allowing rebel fighters to cross the border freely, coming to Turkey to recuperate and returning to Syria with cash, supplies and weapons.
Matthew Schofield contributed to this report from Washington.