Turkey says no sign of missile attack yet in jet incident

July 08, 2012, Sunday/ 17:19:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz has said that examinations are ongoing as to how a Turkish military jet was shot down by Syria last month, saying there is no sign of land-to-air missile or another kind of weapon on found pieces of the plane.

Responding to questions on Saturday on the Turkish RF-4E Phantom -- an unarmed reconnaissance version of the F4 fighter jet -- shot down by its southern neighbor over the Mediterranean on June 22, Yılmaz recalled recent statements by the General Staff over the incident and said there is no further information regarding how the Turkish jet was hit by Syrian forces. “According to information and documents at hand, what we have explained to the Turkish public thus far is still valid,” Yılmaz stated.

Pieces from the wreckage of the plane, found last week at a depth of more than 1,000 meters, are being examined. In a statement, the military said the jet had broken into eight pieces.

Turkey says the plane, on a training mission to test the domestic radar system, was hit in international airspace by Syria without warning in a “hostile act.” Syria, on the other hand, says the plane was flying fast and low, at an altitude of 100 meters, and that it was only a kilometer off the Syrian coast when it was shot down. Syria also says the plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, with the bullets having a range of only 2.5 kilometers, rather than by a missile.

When asked about Turkish claims that the plane was hit with a laser or heat-guided missile, both of which would have been capable of hitting the plane while in international airspace, Yılmaz emphasized that necessary investigations are under way relating to the issue and reiterated that the Syrian act is a violation of international law due to fact that the plane was hit in international airspace.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, emphasized that there are still many unclear points concerning the incident, saying that the Turkish public wants to learn how two Turkish pilots were killed.

The bodies of Capt. Gökhan Ertan and Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy were recovered from the seabed 8.6 nautical miles off the Syrian coast on Thursday at a depth of 1,260 meters near the plane’s wreckage.

Speaking during his party’s 11th Women’s Congress, the party leader said the CHP does not want to see a regional or international war, criticizing the government’s Syria policy. “What is our problem that we cannot resolve with Syria? Instead of looking there, let’s do some self-criticism and look at our own country. Does our country have a democracy?” asserted Kılıçdaroğlu.

Regarding the jet attack, Kılıçdaroğlu noted that the government has a responsibility to give the correct information to the Turkish public and said that they are demanding clear information on how Turkish pilots were killed.

Urging Russia, the US and the United Kingdom to share any information related to the attack with the international public, Kılıçdaroğlu asserted that “I believe many issues currently in the dark [related to the jet attack] will come to light if they do so.” 

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