NATO member states have condemned Syria for shooting down a Turkish military jet last Friday. Speaking Tuesday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the action “unacceptable.”
Rasmussen spoke at a news conference in Brussels after a meeting of the ambassadors from NATO’s 28 member states.
During the Brussels meeting, Turkey outlined its account of last Friday’s incident.
Turkish officials say the military jet was an unarmed plane on a training mission and was flying above international waters when it was shot down. Damascus says it acted in self-defense after the plane entered Syrian airspace.
Rasmussen said that NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey.
“It is another example of the Syrian authorities disregard for international norms, peace and security and human life,” said Rasmussen.
Tuesday’s meeting came under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty. That article says any country may consult fellow member-states if it considers its territorial integrity, political independence, or security to be under threat.
Rasmussen said NATO had not discussed Article 5 of the group’s founding treaty. Article 5 enables the use of force should a member come under attack.
Wyn Rees is an international security expert at Britain’s University of Nottingham. He says NATO is keen to demonstrate its support for Turkey.
“Turkey obviously has been a member of NATO for a very long time,” said Rees. “It’s a very important state within the alliance. So the fact that it has now suffered this loss of an aircraft, it’s important for the other NATO members to show solidarity.”
Rees says NATO also has a second agenda: It hopes to restrain Turkey from escalating the situation.
“The NATO members are not looking for a pretext on which to intervene and therefore they do not want one of their members to drag them into such an action,” added Rees.
Rees says he thinks this situation will be dealt with diplomatically. But he says by shooting down Turkey’s plane, Syria has raised new questions about its internal situation.
“For a country to kind of engage in such an act – such a hostile act – seems rather stupid frankly,” Rees noted. “And one wonders just how much control the Assad regime has over parts of the military now. It kind of raises that deeper question, is the military fully under the command of the civilian government?”
The two men on board the jet shot down Friday have not been found.