Turkey warns Syria away from its border

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The head of NATO called the downing of the jet unacceptable after Turkey briefed NATO’s North Atlantic Council about it. The talks were held under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which allows a member to request consultations if its security has been threatened.

The meeting was the first time a country has invoked Article 4 in nearly a decade. In 2003, Turkey also invoked Article 4 when tensions escalated ahead of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance condemned the Syrian attack “in the strongest terms” and expressed solidarity with Turkey — but he did not speak of any possible armed action against Syria.

“It’s my clear expectation that the situation won’t continue to escalate,” Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after the meeting. “What we have seen is a completely unacceptable act, and I would expect Syria to take all necessary steps to avoid such events in the future.”

The uprising against Assad has obliterated the once-close ties between Syria and Turkey. Turkey has repeatedly called for Assad to step down as 33,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey from the violence.

Turkey also is also hosting civilian opposition groups as well as members of the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting to bring down the Assad regime.

“We will continue to support the struggle of our brothers in Syria at any cost,” Erdogan said. Turkey denies harboring armed Syrian rebels.

Fogh Rasmussen has repeatedly said NATO would need a clear international mandate and regional support before it embarked on a mission in Syria. Last year, NATO launched airstrikes on Libyan government targets only after receiving such a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, along with backing from the Arab League.

But Russia and China — both veto-wielding members of the Security Council — have stood by Assad and shielded his regime from international sanctions. Both countries are keen to avoid any type of military intervention in Syria, and they vow to veto any attempts.

Military intervention has been all but ruled out in Syria for now, in part because the conflict has so much potential for escalation. Damascus has strong allegiances to powerful forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Shiite powerhouse Iran.

Russia’s president and foreign minister repeated Tuesday that Iran should take part in a meeting on the Syrian crisis in Geneva, slated for Saturday.

“The more of Syria’s neighbors that are brought into this process the better,” President Vladimir Putin told Russian journalists traveling with him in Jordan. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he will take part in the Geneva meeting even if Iran is not represented, but without Iran, “we will be talking about how then to gather all of the participants.”

A deputy to international envoy Kofi Annan told a closed Security Council meeting that the principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition must be agreed on before the Geneva meeting can happen, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not public.

The diplomat said that Nasser Al-Kidwa, a deputy joint special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League on Syria, told the council Tuesday that Annan believes the meeting he is trying to organize will only be worth holding if participants can agree on how a Syrian political transition should work, and can’t simply be a “talking shop.”

As part of a U.N.-Arab League peace plan that failed to take hold in Syria, U.N. observers were sent to the country, but they suspended their work earlier this month after coming under fire. The U.N.’s peacekeeping chief, Herve Ladsous, told the Security Council on Tuesday that it is too dangerous for the observers to resume their mission, although it could restart at some point, according to a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.

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