US ambassador says Washington sharing all information available on downed Turkish jet

July 13, 2012, Friday/ 17:53:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Washington has passed on to the Turkish government all information it has related to Turkey’s downed jet, US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone has stated, as efforts to shed light on how a Turkish jet crashed off the Syrian coast on June 22 continue.

Ricciardone once again reiterated that the downing of the F-4 Phantom by Syrian forces without any warning was unacceptable. The Anatolia news agency quoted the US envoy as saying that the information the US has shared with Turkey does not contradict the information Turkey has.

The ambassador added that the US lent logistical support to the Turkish Navy during its search and rescue efforts. Ricciardone’s statements follow calls by the chairman of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, on the government and all other foreign countries, including the US, to share what data they have on the jet incident with the public. Contrary to the ambassador’s statements, a high-ranking source from the US State Department, quoted by the Hürriyet daily on Wednesday, claimed that all details related to the incident are known to those in the US administration who should know them but that that the US would not release details on the jet crash that are currently under debate in Turkey.

A barrage of questions have occupied the Turkish press for weeks as to whether the jet was downed in international or Syrian waters and whether it was taken out with a missile or anti-aircraft fire, while recent official statements have created suspicion that the aircraft may not have been shot down by Syrian forces at all.

In its most recent statement on the incident, the military apparently called into question the one constant in the Turkish narrative of the event, that being that the RF-4E Phantom was shot down by Syrian forces over the Mediterranean. Contrary to all other statements made to the public so far, the military referred to the plane as “our aircraft that Syrian authorities claim to have downed,” immediately leading to the idea that the plane crash may have been an accident.

In light of this statement, observers say the plane could have crashed due to a malfunction or pilot error.

Yakup Evirgen, a retired lieutenant and a specialist in Turkey’s defense economy, asserts that a proper evaluation of the event will only be possible after all countries with an advanced capability to monitor air and sea navigation in the eastern Mediterranean -- including the US, Russia and the United Kingdom -- have shared all intelligence they have at their disposal.

Recalling the UK military bases in Cyprus, the US radar systems over the eastern Mediterranean and the three Russian military vessels that have been anchored at the Latakia port in Syria since April, supported by advanced radar and anti-aircraft systems, Evirgen told Today’s Zaman during a telephone interview on Thursday that “Turkey needs the information that could come from these states.”

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