EU condemns downing of jet, won’t support military action

EU condemns downing of jet, won’t support military action

French Foreign Minister Fabius (center L) greets German Foreign Minister Westerwelle (center R) during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on June 25. (Photo: AP)

June 25, 2012, Monday/ 17:37:00

EU foreign ministers on Monday condemned Syria's downing of a Turkish jet, but said the bloc will not support military action in the troubled country.

"What happened is to be considered very seriously [but] we do not go for any interventions," said Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, while EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU "will be obviously looking to Turkey to be restrained in its response." German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also urged calm.

“I think it is still important that we continue to work on a political solution (to the Syrian crisis),” Westerwelle said as he arrived for a regular meeting of EU ministers. “De-escalation is crucial at this moment.”

The EU ministers met in Luxembourg for a regular conference, one day before a scheduled NATO meeting to discuss how to react to Friday’s incident, which Turkey says occurred in international airspace and without warning. Turkey is a member of NATO, but is only a candidate for membership of the European Union.

Similarly, British Foreign Secretary William Hague called for increased pressure, but said the jet incident did not fundamentally alter the situation in Syria, where Assad has been suppressing a 16-month revolt against his rule.

“I don’t think it illustrates a different phase,” Hague said. “It’s very important that we increase the pressure with additional sanctions. Other countries will be very active in arguing for a new resolution from the [United Nations] Security Council.”

Turkey has said the jet mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace on Friday, but was quickly warned to leave by Turkish authorities and was a mile (1.6 kilometers) inside international airspace when it was shot down.

Syria said it was unaware that the F-4 Phantom belonged to Turkey, and that it was protecting its air space against an unknown intruder.

Ankara has called a meeting of NATO’s governing body on Tuesday to discuss the incident. Any ally can request such consultations if it feels that territorial integrity or security has been threatened.

“This is an episode that illustrates how the Syrian crisis is escalating ... and how important it is to find a resolution to the violence,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Syria’s downing of the Turkish fighter jet as “brazen and unacceptable” and vowed close US cooperation with Turkey to promote a political transition in Syria.

“The United States condemns this brazen and unacceptable act in the strongest possible terms,” Clinton said in a statement following a conversation on Saturday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Syria’s ally China called for calm and restraint on Monday. “China has noted the relevant reports and is paying close attention to developments,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

“At present, the regional situation is extremely complicated and sensitive. We hope that the parties concerned will exercise calm and restraint and adhere to diplomatic channels to reach an appropriate solution, so it does not escalate further.”

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