Despite President Gul’s Anti-Syria Rhetoric, Gov’ts Working Together In Search for Missing Pilots
DAMASCUS, June 23 — Syrian foreign ministry spokesman said Syria has no hostile intentions towards Turkey, a day after the Syrian anti – aircraft artillery shot down a Turkish military plane that penetrated Syria’s territorial waters, despite Turkey’s tough rhetoric.
On Friday, a Syrian military spokesman said a Turkish fighter jet had penetrated the Syrian airspace earlier on Friday and it was shot down by Syrian army with anti-aircraft artillery, adding it was dealt with in accordance to the laws observed in similar situation.
“What happened was a defensive and sovereign act,” Jihad Makdissi told Xinhua Saturday, adding that there is coordination between the Turkish and Syrian governments to locate the whereabouts of the missing pilots.
Joining the search for the pilots is a clear evidence that Syria is dealing with this situation with responsibility, Makdissi said.
However, the Turkish side has shown more aggressive stance when President Abdullah Gul vowed his country will do whatever is required after the jet incident.
Gul said that it was definite that the Turkish jet was shot down by Syria, noting that it was routine for warplanes flying at high speed to cross borders for short distances. Gul said it was not a move with bad intention.
The president said Turkey had held phone conversations with the Syrian side, giving no details about the content of the calls.
Syrian-Turkish relations hit bottom since the unrest in Syria began last year. The two sides had been close allies before the Turkish government turned against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and became an outspoken critic of his alleged crackdown on the anti-government movement.
Turkey has opened its borders, harboring Syrian refugees, who have allegedly escaped the violence in their towns and cities. Moreover, Syria’s northern neighbor also harbored armed elements and army defectors, providing safe havens for them.
The Turkish support came in unison with further support from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States to the anti-Assad movement, which apparently didn’t stop at providing safe havens but also to provide and render other types of support to the armed rebels.
The Guardian said Friday that the rebel Free Syria Army (FSA) are to be paid by Saudi Arabia in an attempt to encourage Syrian Army troops to defect.
“Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime,” the Guardian said.
The British paper said “the move has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the U.S. and the Arab world,” adding that the move to pay salaries “is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.”
It said Turkey has helped the flow of weapons across its southern borders into the hands of the rebels.
The paper said Turkey had also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is coordinating supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria.
“The Guardian witnessed the transfer of weapons in early June near the Turkish frontier,” said the paper.
Also, the New York Times newspaper reported on June 21 that the U.S. intelligence had settled in southern Turkey and maintained flow of weapons to Syrian opposition, allegedly so as to ensure they do not fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda militants.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials and Arab intelligence officials, the U.S. newspaper claimed the arms were being paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and taken across the Turkish border.
However, Turkey on Friday rebuffed what it called allegations that it shipped weapons to Syrian opposition through its borders.
“No weapons are delivered from Turkey to any neighbouring country, including Syria,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal told reporters Friday over media reports claiming Turkey was involved in arms delivery for Syrian rebels.