Turkish warplane ‘missing’ near Syrian border
The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 while it was flying over Hatay
22 June 2012 Last updated at 18:06
Turkey’s government has called an emergency security meeting amid reports that one of its fighter jets was shot down by Syrian security forces.
The Turkish military lost contact with an F-4 Phantom over the Mediterranean Sea, south-west of Hatay province.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a news conference there is still no confirmation of what brought the jet down, nor of the fate of its two crew.
He was earlier quoted as saying: “The other side have expressed regret”.
Relations between Turkey and Syria, once close allies, have deteriorated sharply since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The Turkish military said it lost radio contact with the F-4 at 1158 (0858 GMT) on Friday while it was flying over Hatay, about 90 minutes after it took off from Erhac airbase in the province of Malatya, to the north-west.
The private news channel, NTV, later cited unnamed military sources as saying that the plane had crashed off Hatay’s Mediterranean coast, in Syrian territorial waters, but that there had been no border violation.
The Syrian coast guard was helping the Turkish coast guard, navy and air force search for the two crew members and the plane, NTV reported.
Witnesses in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia meanwhile told BBC Arabic that Syrian air defences had shot down an unidentified aircraft near the town of Ras al-Basit.
Lebanon’s al-Manar television channel – controlled by Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement, an ally of the Syrian government – also reported that Syrian security sources had said that “Syrian air defences shot down a Turkish warplane and hit another in Syrian airspace”.
There was no immediate confirmation from Turkish officials, but later it was announced that Mr Erdogan would be holding an emergency meeting to discuss the incident with his interior, defence and foreign ministers and the Chief of the General Staff, Gen Necdet Ozel.
Mr Erdogan was also said to have told Turkish reporters on a flight back from Brazil on Friday afternoon that “the other side” had expressed regret over the downing of the F-4, and also that the pilots had been recovered.