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As Turkey Looks To NATO, Syria Defends Shooting War Plane

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, arrives for a cabinet meeting in his office in Ankara, Turkey on Monday.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, arrives for a cabinet meeting in his office in Ankara, Turkey on Monday.

Update at 3:16 p.m. ET. An Attack On All Of NATO:

The tension between Turkey and Syria has heightened this afternoon. First Turkey said that Syria had fired at another one of its planes; this one was involved in a search rescue operation of the war plane shot down by Syria last week.

Then, Haaretz reports, after a long cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said that Turkey "would protect itself, within the framework of international law, against what it called Syria's 'hostile action.'"

Arinc added that Syria's action would "not go unpunished."

Now, we're getting word from the AP that Turkey will ask NATO to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty during its meeting tomorrow.

Under that article, an attack on any member is considered an attack on all members.

The AP reports:

"The announcement came on the eve of a meeting by NATO's governing body to discuss the incident. Despite deep frustration among many NATO countries over the conflict in Syria, where the opposition says President Bashar Assad's crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has killed 14,000 people, it's highly unlikely the military alliance will take armed action against the Arab state."

As we reported earlier, Turkey had already invoked article 4 of the Treaty, which prescribes that "any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened."

Our Original Post Continues:

A spokesman for Syria's foreign ministry said his country "holds no hostility towards the Turkish people."

According Syria's state news agency, SANA, Jihad Makdessi said Syria shot at a Turkish war plane because it veered into Syrian airspace.

"The Syrian response was an act of defense of our sovereignty carried out by anti-aircraft machinegun which has a maximum range of 2.5 km," Makdessi said today.

Syria is trying to diffuse the standoff with Turkey, which has called a special meeting with its NATO allies to talk about the incident. As The Washington Post's Liz Sly reports, Turkey's NATO summons is a "move that potentially opens the door to international military intervention in the Syrian crisis for the first time."

The Post adds:

"'It was a hostile act,' Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said in a telephone interview. 'They shot down a plane over international waters, and this is unacceptable.' Turkey sent a diplomatic note to Syria stating that under international law, Turkey 'reserves the right to respond,' he added.

"In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the downing 'a brazen and unacceptable act' and said the United States was consulting with its allies and partners regarding 'next steps' to be taken against Syria, at a time when a U.N. effort to address the spiraling bloodshed inside Syria through diplomacy is faltering."

Turkey is set to make a presentation to NATO on Tuesday.

In other news, Reuters is reporting that a Syrian general and 38 soldiers defected to Turkey overnight.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.