Tuesday, 26 June 2012

NATO Consultations Today on Syrian Shootdown of Turkish Jet

Turkey will this morning put its case before the Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council. Turkish politicians have said that Turkey will seek an Article V mutual defence declaration from the Alliance that this was an attack on all of NATO. For example, according to the AP, Deputy PM Bulent Arinc told journalists that:

"No doubt, Turkey has made necessary applications with NATO regarding Article 4 and Article 5. It should be known that within legality we will of course use all rights granted under international law until the end. This also includes self-defense. This also includes retaliation many-fold. This includes all sanctions that can be applied to the aggressor state under international law. Turkey will not leave anything out on this issue. The public should be assured."
However, he also said that Turkey does not want to go to war over the incident. Further reporting from the Guardian yesterday showed Turkey increasing pressure on NATO for support, as it was said that Syria had also fired on search and rescue planes looking for the downed jet and its pilots. The Guardian also had some explanation of why Turkey is going to NATO:

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "The downing of a plane by one of Turkey's neighbours is unprecedented. Turkey is going to Nato and the UN security council to appease Turkey domestic opinion."On the bilateral level, it has no tools left. All the Syrian diplomats have been expelled and Turkey has no representation in Damascus any more. Its only option is to seek support from Turkey's partners in the multilateral arena."Statements of solidarity from western capitals will help Turkey fulfil two objectives: they will assuage domestic public opinion and Turkey can also use the incident as proof that the situation vis-a-vis Syria will remain volatile and unsustainable as long as Assad is there."
The EU condemned the shooting down on Monday, but will not take more substantive action at this time. Russia, not surprisingly, appealed for restraint from NATO with Ria Novosti saying that Foreign Minister Andrei Zolotov had said that nothing should be done to make a political solution impossible. Which, given Russia's arming of the Syrian government, is pretty rich.

All in all it seems likely that NATO will offer support to to Turkey, and condemn the shooting down of their plane. But since Turkey admitted the plane had strayed into Syrian airspace and there is no evidence this is part of a wider attack on Turkey, let alone the Alliance, military action is very unlikely. This incident may, however, make Turkey more likely to offer covert support to rebel groups. It also reduces the political area Syria has for maneouvre.

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