- Associated Press - Monday, June 25, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said Monday it would push NATO to consider Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the whole military alliance.

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.

The unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down a mile inside international airspace on Friday, and two Turkish pilots are still missing, the Turkish government says. It has insisted the plane was not spying on Syria.


Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also said Monday that Syrian forces had opened ground fire on a CASA search-and-rescue plane shortly after the downing, but did not say if that plane was hit.

Mr. Arinc said Turkey retains its right to “retaliate” against what he called a “hostile act,” but he added, “We have no intention of going at war with anyone.”

Still, he said that Turkey will push NATO to consider the jet’s downing an Article 5 incident.

Article 5 states that an attack against one NATO member shall be considered an attack against all members.

The North Atlantic Council — which includes ambassadors of the 28 NATO countries — works by consensus and all members must approve any action.

The meeting Tuesday comes after Turkey requested it under Article 4 of the treaty, which allows a NATO ally to request such a consultation if it feels its territorial integrity or security has been threatened.

Meanwhile, a Syrian general was among the latest defectors from the Syrian military, officials said Monday, after dozens of Syrian soldiers fled overnight to Turkey, crossing the border with their families.

The general defected in recent days, Turkish officials said. Then, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency, 33 soldiers crossed the border overnight, including a second general and two colonels.

But a Turkish government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said the group included three colonels, and there was no general.

The two accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

Thousands of soldiers have abandoned the Syrian regime, but most are low-level conscripts. The rebel Free Syrian Army — which is based in Turkey — is made up largely of defectors.

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