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June 26, 2012, Tuesday

Syrian attack, bait for Turkey

Syrian forces shot down a Turkish warplane with two crew members onboard over the Mediterranean on Friday, which has made the relations between the two neighbors worse. Ankara is expected to seek an apology and compensation for the downed plane, which was in international airspace when it was hit, while Syria has been trying to justify its attack, saying that the plane was flying inside Syrian airspace.

Sabah’s Mahmut Övür suggests a parallel between the Uludere incident, in which the military killed 34 civilians last year by mistake, and the recent Syrian attack. Övür explains that the Uludere attack was the work of those favoring the status quo in the country’s domestic politics. Just as the military was conducting effective operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkey’s most pressing problem, the Uludere tragedy upended the country’s domestic political situation. And in the same vein, the Syrian attack on our military jet aims to maintain the status quo in the region while lessening Turkey’s influence there. Turkey has regarded itself as a model democratic country for the Islamic world for a while, and yet both attacks are the products of unease regarding any democratic change in the country or in the region, he argues.

Bugün’s Gültekin Avcı, on the other hand, is one of the few columnists thinking that although Syria was, without doubt, wrong for shooting our plane down, the fact that our warplane flew within Syrian territory borders for five minutes and at such a low altitude as 200 feet makes one ask why the pilots of the jet, who, after all, did not really have to enter Syrian airspace to fulfill their mission to test Turkey’s radar system, made such a big mistake. It is clear that the relations between the two countries were already strained by Turkey’s determined stance against the Syrian government and its lethal crackdown. This fragile relationship between the two countries makes the claims that “airspace violations are commonly seen in other countries, too” meaningless. Avcı highlights that he does not aim to prove Turkey wrong in this crisis, but surely an airspace violation at such a critical time and into such a critical country is a mistake to which Turkey should admit. Star daily columnist Sedat Laçiner argues that it is not plausible that the Syrian attack was actually a mistake, that the only country behind this attack is Syria or the aim behind the attack was to teach Turkey a lesson. What Laçiner argues is that Turkey is a target in a more complex game and the attack was just bait to draw Turkey into this game.

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