Intercepted Syrian communications suggest that the Syrians knew it was a Turkish plane and made a “deliberate” decision to shoot at it, Unal said. He said the Syrians fired “at least a couple” of surface-to-air missiles at the jet.
“The plane’s identity could be seen by all. It was not hiding anything,” Davutoglu said in the television interview. The plane was 13 nautical miles off the Syrian coast — a mile inside international waters — when it was hit, he said.
The incident signaled a new low in the once-close relationship between Ankara and Damascus, which had already deteriorated dramatically since a Turkish attempt to persuade President Bashar al-Assad to adopt political reforms failed last summer. Turkey is hosting the leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army at a refugee camp in southern Turkey and recently joined in an effort to supply rebels inside Syria with arms and money, in collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States.
Invoking Article 4 of the NATO charter is not considered as serious a step as Article 5, which requires members to spring to the defense of any ally that is under attack. But the fact that NATO is being drawn into the global debate on how to resolve the Syrian conundrum marks a new phase in an effort that has so far focused on U.N. diplomacy, said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The mood and the tenor of all this changes,” he said.
After Turkey publicized its findings, other NATO allies weighed in with condemnations. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the shooting “outrageous,” and said Britain was ready to pursue “robust action” at the U.N. Security Council.
Clinton said she would be consulting with U.S. partners over the incident, including the Security Council and Kofi Annan, the U.N. special envoy for Syria who is overseeing implementation of the U.N. peace plan — making it clear that she is not giving up on a diplomatic solution.
But another weekend of bloodshed inside Syria seemed only to underscore the failings of the U.N. effort. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it recorded 53 deaths on Sunday and 84 on Saturday, amid reports that government forces were stepping up an assault on the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and sustaining their bombardment of the central city of Homs.
Syria’s official SANA news agency said a record 112 members of the Syrian security forces had been buried Saturday and Sunday, an indication that the rebels are growing more effective in their counterattacks.
Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, has repeatedly said it would use its veto to prevent any Security Council action that might open the door to military intervention. But Syria has now presented NATO with a pretext for involvement that could potentially bypass the United Nations, said Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Center.
“Assad has made a very big mistake,” he said. “He’s shown the very real dangers of this regime to its neighborhood.”