Turkish Cabinet to Discuss Syrian Attack Against Jet

Posted June 25th, 2012 at 6:50 am (UTC-5)
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Turkey's Cabinet is to discuss the downing of a Turkish military jet last week by Syria, while Western diplomats continue their condemnation of the attack.

The Cabinet meeting Monday comes a day before NATO ambassadors are scheduled to hold consultations requested by Turkey, under the alliance's founding treaty, which commits all members to protect one another's security and borders.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers met in Luxembourg, where EU policy chief Catherine Ashton said she expected a “big discussion” about the attack.

“We are very concerned about what has happened and very concerned for the family of the two pilots who are missing. And we will be obviously looking to Turkey to be restrained in its response.”

China's foreign ministry gave a similar call for restraint.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he “absolutely” condemns the Friday incident, but that it is not a fundamental shift in the situation in Syria.

“I do not think it illustrates a different phase of the Syrian crisis. I think we continue to be in a great danger of a collapse in Syria or of intensifying conflict.”

He said it is important for the European Union to increase its pressure on Mr. Assad's government.

Diplomats said the European Union will add a Syrian official as well as six companies and other entities to its sanctions list, which already includes more than 100 people.

Australia announced its own new sanctions, adding to its existing arms embargo and financial and travel restrictions against those associated with the Assad government. Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says the Syrian government “continues to show its unwillingness to negotiate a ceasefire” and end the country's bloodshed.

Turkey says Syria shot down the jet without warning in international airspace, but details of the incident remain unclear.

Turkey says the jet's two pilots were on an unarmed training mission and inadvertently entered Syrian airspace for a brief period before leaving and being struck by Syrian fire several minutes later. Syria said it fired on the jet because it was flying close to its coast, in violation of Syrian airspace.

Relations between Turkey and Syria have been tense since last year, when Ankara began criticizing Mr. Assad's deadly crackdown on an opposition uprising against his autocratic rule. Syria has criticized Turkey for hosting Syrian opposition forces. It accuses Turkish authorities of providing weapons and intelligence to the rebels.

Ankara has promised to take strong, decisive and legitimate action once the facts of the incident are known.