Sunday 17 December 2017

Turkey to call in NATO over jet downed by Syria

Adrian Blomfield Middle East Correspondent

Turkey is to convene an emergency session of Nato after declaring yesterday that Syria's shooting down of one its fighter jets amounted to a direct challenge to its national security.

The Turkish government brushed off protestations in Damascus that Friday's incident was an accident, accusing Syria of deliberately bringing down the F-4 Phantom in international airspace and without warning.

Bringing a potentially dangerous international dimension to the standoff, Turkey took the highly unusual step of invoking Article IV of Nato's charter as it sought Western backing for its response.

Article IV allows a Nato member to call an emergency meeting of the alliance if it feels that its "territorial integrity, political independence or security" has been threatened.

It has only been invoked once before, when Turkey, fearing a backlash by Saddam Hussein, petitioned the alliance to station anti-missile batteries on its soil in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Nato said its governing body would meet tomorrow to discuss how to respond to the downing of the Turkish jet.

Underlining Turkish anger, Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign minister, said a formal protest would be lodged with the United Nations Security Council.

Outrageous

Turkey's robust response was welcomed by Britain and some of its European allies. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, described the incident as "outrageous" and warned Syria that it would face serious consequences.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, criticised Syria for the "brazen and unacceptable" shooting down of the jet and said the US would work with Turkey on a suitable response.

EU foreign ministers, who will meet today to discuss the incident, were similarly direct. Giulio Terzi, Italy's foreign minister, said the incident was a "further extremely serious and unacceptable action by the Assad regime".

But there were also calls for caution. Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, said: "Everything must be done to ensure that there won't be any further escalation in the already tense region."

Turkey has not revealed what measures it will take against Syria, nor what role Nato should play. There has been no suggestion Turkey would invoke Article V of the Nato charter, which states that an attack on one member should be regarded as an attack on all, and could lead to military action.

Syria has insisted it acted within its rights. "What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in the Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters," said Jihad Makdissi, the Syrian foreign ministry's spokesman. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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