On Friday, Syria said its forces shot down a Turkish military plane that had entered its airspace. The plane, an unarmed F-4, went down in the Mediterranean Sea about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Syrian town of Latakia, Turkey said.
In Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday that the recent defection of a Syrian pilot to Jordan and the downing of the Turkish jet showed that the Syrian conflict could have far-reaching repercussions.
“Our main concern is the spillover of the crisis into neighborhood countries. No country is immune from this spillover,” he said. “If this conflict were to turn into all-out sectarian or civil war, Iraq would be affected, Lebanon would be affected, Jordan would not be immune, (and) Turkey could be (affected).”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was “greatly worried” by the incident, urged a thorough investigation and welcomed Turkey’s cool-headed reaction in the incident’s immediate aftermath.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was following the situation closely and hoped the incident would be “handled with restraint by both sides through diplomatic channels,” a spokesman said.
The Turkish government said the aircraft was a reconnaissance plane, not a fighter jet. Gul said it is “routine” for such jets flying at high-speeds to unintentionally violate other countries’ air spaces for short periods of time. “Was that the case, or did (the incident) occur in our own air space? These facts will emerge,” he said.
Syria claimed the jet violated its air space over territorial waters, penetrating about 1 kilometer (0.62 mile). It said Syrian forces only realized it was a Turkish jet after firing at it.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and other government ministers urged restraint. “We must remain calm and collected,” he said. “We must not give premium to any provocative speeches and acts.”
The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said the downing of the plane was unacceptable, but he also urged calm.
“All diplomatic channels must be kept open. We are expecting a coolheaded assessment of the incident,” he said.
Associated Press writers Lara Jakes and Kay Johnson in Baghdad, and Juergen Baetz in Berlin, contributed to this report.
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