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Syria says its airspace is 'sacrosanct'

June 25, 2012 at 1:47 PM   |   Comments

LUXEMBOURG, June 25 (UPI) -- Syria wants neighborly relations with Turkey but regards its airspace as "sacrosanct," a government spokesman said Monday.

The comment by Jihad Makdissi of the Foreign Ministry came three days after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish jet fighter.

Syrian officials have said the jet was flying low near Syria's coastline. Turkey said it might have flown into Syrian space by mistake but was in international airspace space when it was brought down.

"In case it were aggressive in nature, we say that the Syrian territories, water and air are sacrosanct for the Syrian Army," Makdissi said in Damascus.

Makdissi said Syria wants "neighborly relations" with Turkey.

Turkey announced the defection of eight Syrian Army officers, including a general and two colonels, and their family members, the Financial Times reported.

Turkish Officials said the Syrian defectors and their relatives were sent to a camp in Apaydin in southern Hatay province, Anadolu Agency reported.

More than 33,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape the violence in their country that began with pro-democracy demonstrations in March 2011, officials said.

European Union ministers meeting in Luxembourg had already planned to discuss the 16-month Syrian conflict, officials said, but would now focus on a response to the shoot-down of the twin-engine F-4 Phantom jet.

Syrian officials said downing the plane was a defensive action, not an attack.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Syria of deliberate misinformation when it said the jet was in Syrian airspace.

He told state-run Turkish Radio and Television the plane was on a training flight to test Turkey's radar along the Mediterranean coast and was clearly marked as Turkish.

"It was not gathering information on Syria. ... It has nothing to do with Syria," Davutoglu said.

"To perceive a threat from this kind of a flight carries a bad intention," he said, vowing a decisive response.

Davutoglu said the plane momentarily entered Syrian airspace -- which Turkish President Abdullah Gul said was "routine" for supersonic jets on training flights -- but quickly left and was shot down several minutes later in international airspace 13 miles from the Syrian coast.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said it knew the coordinates of the plane's wreckage, 4,265 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, but had not found it or the pilots.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the Obama administration condemned "this brazen and unacceptable act in the strongest possible terms." She said Washington would "work with Turkey and other partners to hold the [Bashar] Assad regime accountable."

Turkey shares a 565-mile border with Syria.

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