Turkey: Retaliation Possible Against Syria

By: AP
By: AP
Syria calls its downing of Turkish plane an accident, but Turkey threatens retaliation...Syria forms new government; key posts unchanged...

This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Friday, June 8, 2012 purports to show a girl holding the Syrian revolutionary flag during a demonstration in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)THE ASSOCIATED PRESS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS HANDOUT PHOTO

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- In a sign of how the conflict is aggravating regional tensions, Syria said Friday it shot down a Turkish military plane that entered Syrian air space. It was the clearest and most dramatic escalation in tensions between the two countries, which used to be allies before the Syrian revolt began. Turkey has become one of the strongest critics of the Syrian regime's response to the uprising.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Saturday his country would take "necessary" action against Syria, but suggested that the aircraft may have unintentionally violated the Syrian airspace.
The plane, an unarmed F-4, went down in the Mediterranean Sea about 8 miles (13 kilometers) away from the Syrian town of Latakia, Turkey said.
Syria says it shot down a Turkish military jet because the aircraft violated its airspace, but it's calling it an "accident, not an attack."
Turkey is threatening to retaliate, though it's not saying how.
Both sides are signaling that they do not want to escalate the episode, which has the potential to explode into a regional conflagration.
Turkey and Syria had once been allies, but that was before the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime began 15 months ago.
Turkey is now playing host to Syrian opposition groups, including hundreds of army defectors affiliated with the Free Syrian Army.
And Turkish officials suspect that Damascus now is turning a blind eye to Kurdish rebels based in Syria.
Meanwhile, the search for the two missing pilots continues in the Mediterranean. Syria's foreign ministry says the two countries are cooperating, at least on that effort.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad formed a new government Saturday, but the key posts at the foreign, defense and interior ministries were not changed.
The government is headed by Riad Farid Hijab, a former agriculture minister and a loyalist member of the ruling Baath Party.
A deadly uprising has convulsed Syria for more than a year, and Assad has promised to enact political reforms. He had promised after the May 7 parliamentary elections to make the government more inclusive to politicians from other parties.
But the appointment of Hijab and the decision to keep the key posts unchanged raised questions about the commitment to that pledge.
The opposition boycotted the parliamentary elections, saying they were designed to strengthen Assad's grip on power.
Parliament is considered little more than a rubber stamp in Syria, where the president and a tight coterie of advisers hold the real power.
Activists estimate that more than 14,000 people have been killed since the start of the uprising against Assad's regime in March 2011.

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