US envoy dismisses debate over location of jet attack
US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone attends to a conference in İstanbul on 28. March, 2012. (Photo: Today's Zaman)
US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone has played down controversy over where a Turkish jet downed by Syria last month was hit, saying what is important is that the plane was downed by Syria without any warning, which was unacceptable.
Syrian forces shot down the RF-4E Phantom, an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F4 fighter jet, which, according to Ankara, was on a solo mission to test domestic radar systems and was hit in international airspace after it briefly strayed into Syrian airspace on June 22.
Syria described the incident as an act of self-defense. Turkey, while saying the act would “not go unpunished,” emphasized that it does not intend to go to war with Syria. Ankara says the plane was hit while it was in international airspace while Syria says the plane was well within its airspace.
“What is important is that the plane was downed without prior warning. This is unacceptable,” Ricciardone was quoted by Anatolia news agency as telling reporters during a US Embassy reception in Ankara on Wednesday evening to mark US Independence Day. “We are in solidarity with Turkey. For us, all other details are not important.”
Ricciardone was speaking after it was confirmed that the two pilots of the aircraft were dead. “The news of the pilots shocked all of us. I felt deep sadness. I would like to convey my condolences to the families of the martyrs on the behalf of the US president and the American people,” said the US ambassador.
The bodies of the two pilots were located in the Mediterranean Sea, the General Staff said on Wednesday.
Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, former Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Çetin, Turkey's Ambassador to Poland Yusuf Ziya Özcan, Deputy Chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP) Faruk Loğoğlu, CHP deputies Şafak Pavey, Osman Korutürk and Atilla Kart, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Diyarbakır deputy Altan Tan, Chairman of Parliament's Foreign Relations Commission Murat Mercan, Democratic Left Party (DSP) leader Masum Türker and Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek were among the attendees at the US Embassy reception.