ANKARA Turkeys President Abdullah Gul vowed Saturday to respond with whatever is necessary to Syrias reported shooting down of a Turkish warplane
Speaking to reporters after nearly a full day of official silence by Ankara, Gul said Turkey had confirmed that the plane was indeed brought down by Syria, as widely reported on Friday. He explained that Turkish officials had initially received conflicting reports about the incident.
Gul conceded that the Turkish F-4 Phantom may have violated Syrian airspace, but that could in no way justify shooting it down.
"It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will be done," Gul said. "It is routine for jet fighters to sometimes fly in and out [of air space] over [national] borders... when you consider their speed over the sea,"
Investigations are underway to determine whether the plane was hit over Turkish airspace, and Ankara has been in contact with Damascus despite the countries calling home their respective ambassadors earlier this year as tensions grew over Syrias repression of opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
"We withdrew our envoy from Syria for security reasons. This does not mean that we have no contacts," Gul said.
The two Turkish pilots on board the F-4 have disappeared over the Mediterranean, southwest of the Hatay province. Syria and Turkey are carrying out a joint-rescue effort, with gunboats in search of the missing pilots.
The plane, which had taken off from the Erhac airbase in Malaya, crashed around noon, according to Turkish Military Officials.
One witness reported that the plane crashed on Syrian territory after being shot down, and the pilots were being held captive. But there was no conformation of this account.
Read the original article in full in Turkish
Photo - Peng Chen
*This is a digest, not a full translation