Syria Regrets Shooting Turkish Jet

By Stephen Jones, Epoch Times
July 3, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
F-4 Phantom fighter jets fly during the Army Day parade in the Iranian capital Tehran on April 18, 2010. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has attempted to diffuse growing tension with neighboring Turkey over the shooting down of a warplane last month.

In an interview with Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper, Assad said that the downed Turkish F-4 Phantom jet had been mistaken for an Israeli plane.

The incident caused a diplomatic rift with its former ally Ankara, prompting Turkey to dispatch F-16 fighter jets, tanks, and anti-air weapons to the border, in a display of force.

Last week, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Syria as a “clear and present threat.”

However, President Assad—who has been fighting against a popular uprising for over a year—attempted to play down any potential confrontation between the two countries.

“We will not allow [the shooting down] to turn into open combat between the two countries,” he is quoted as saying.

Ankara claims the plane only strayed briefly into Syrian territory, and was later shot down while in international airspace.

Assad said that the plane took the same route as an Israeli plane, which bombed in the northeast of the country in 2007, where a nuclear reactor was believed to have been located.

“A country at war always acts like this, this plane was flying at a very low altitude and was shot down by anti-aircraft defenses, which mistook it for an Israeli plane,” he said.

“I say 100 percent ‘If only we had not shot it down.'”