Turkey has accused Syria of shooting down one of its fighter jets while in international airspace.
On Friday night Ankara requested an emergency meeting with fellow NATO members over the incident, as it vowed to act with “determination.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the aircraft was on an armed training mission at the time. It had strayed briefly into Syrian territory, but was in international airspace when it was attacked.
“According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria,” he told state broadcaster TRT.
“The plane did not show any sign of hostility toward Syria and was shot down about 15 minutes after having momentarily violated Syrian airspace.”
Turkey has invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaty, which enables countries to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any of the parties is threatened.”
A spokeswoman for NATO told news agencies that a meeting would be held this Tuesday following Turkey’s request.
Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said Sunday that the incident was not an act of aggression.
“What happened was an accident and not an assault as some like to say, because the plane was shot while it was in Syrian airspace and flew over Syrian territorial waters,” he was quoted as saying by the pro-government newspaper Al-Watan.
However, Davutoglu said there was no excuse for Syria’s actions. “The Syrians knew full well that it was a Turkish military plane and the nature of its mission,” he said.
He added that the aircraft was carrying out training exercises and not “on any mission, including information gathering, above Syria.”
“Nobody should dare put Turkey’s (military) capabilities to the test,” Davutoglu warned. “No one can threaten Turkey’s security.
“Turkey will act with restraint but determination. We will bring this affair before public opinion and international law in the name of Turkey’s honor.”
The incident has already drawn international condemnation. In a statement, Britain’s Foreign Minister William Hague said, “This outrageous act underlines how far beyond accepted behavior the Syrian regime has put itself.”
“It will be held to account for its behavior. The U.K. stands ready to pursue robust action at the United Nations Security Council,” Hague continued.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Turkey for its restraint following the incident.
“The secretary-general urged both to continue to address the situation diplomatically,” a spokesman told AFP.