Turkish F-4 fighter shot down by Syria, PM confirms
The Turkish Government has confirmed that one of its Air Force's F-4 Phantom II fighter jets was shot down by Syrian security forces over the eastern Mediterranean coast on 22 June 2012.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said in a statement: "According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles (24km) from Syria. Turkey will present its final stance after the incident has been fully brought to light and decisively take the necessary steps."
The Prime Minister's office added that search and rescue operations involving Turkish and Syrian coast guard ships were currently underway for the two missing pilots, who were aboard the plane at the time of attack.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, claimed that the fighter was flying low on a training flight to test the country's radar capabilities, about 1.6km inside international airspace at the time of shooting, and was not involved in any operation against Syria.
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, however, said the plane was flying just 1km off the Syrian coast and stressed: "There was no hostile act against Turkey whatsoever. It was just an act of defence for our sovereignty."
According to reports from Turkish media, Syria has apologised for the incident, but the Prime Minister made no mention of any apology, declining to comment on the subject.
The incident worsens relationships between the two nations which have deteriorated in recent weeks, following the violent response against pro-democracy protests in Syria in March 2011.
Image: Turkish Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II (code 68-0342) readies for takeoff. Photo: courtesy of Adrian Pingstone.