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Top Turkish officials in meetings after Syria downs Turkish jet

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 23, 2012 -- Updated 2306 GMT (0706 HKT)
  • NEW: The U.N. secretary-general expresses his "deep concern" about the situation
  • Turkey's foreign minister holds meetings on situation with top officials
  • Turkey's president says the jet may have entered Syrian airspace
  • The navies of both countries are searching for the missing pilots, the Syrian military says

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkey's foreign minister huddled with top officials Saturday after Syria shot down a Turkish military jet that had apparently entered Syrian airspace, a ministry spokesman said.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu chaired meetings about the ongoing search and rescue efforts for the two pilots and their plane, spokesman Selcuk Unal told CNN. The meetings were with Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Davutoglu also spoke with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the foreign ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and Iran, and the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Unal said.

The Syrian military shot down the plane Friday as it flew just off the Mediterranean coast. A Syrian military spokesman said anti-aircraft artillery shot down what was an unidentified aircraft that entered its airspace at a very low altitude and high speed.

While on fire, the jet fell into the sea 10 kilometers, or more than six miles, from the shore of the town of Um Al-Tuyoor, the spokesman said.

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Saturday, Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a military spokesman as saying "the target turned out to be a Turkish military plane that entered Syrian airspace and was dealt with according to laws observed in such cases."

Turkish President Abdullah Gul acknowledged Saturday that the jet may have entered Syria's airspace, the Anatolia news agency reported.

"When you take in to account the speeds at which jet planes travel over the sea, it is routine for planes to go in and out of borders," the news agency quoted him as saying.

"It is something that happens without bad intentions and that happens due to the high speeds."

He added, "It is not possible to cover something like this up. Whatever needs to be done will be done, without a doubt."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish assault boats and helicopters as well as Syrian boats were conducting a search along the Mediterranean coast between the Turkish province of Hatay and the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia.

The Syrian military spokesman also said the navies of both countries are cooperating in the search.

The U.N.'s Ban expressed his "deep concern" about the situation and the potential implications for the region during a phone call with Davutoglu on Saturday, the United Nations said.

He commended Turkey for the "restraint" it has shown and said he appreciated that Turkey and Syria are conducting the joint search operation.

The Turkish government called an emergency meeting after the warplane went missing near the border.

"Turkey will make its final position clear once the event is fully uncovered and will take all necessary steps with determination," Erdogan said Friday.

The Turkish military said the plane took off from Malatya Erhac Center and lost radar communication over the sea near Hatay province, which borders Syria.

The jet's disappearance could spark a political crisis. Relations between the two neighbors have already deteriorated amid the bloody uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on al-Assad to step down, and Turkey has withdrawn its diplomats from Damascus.

However, Gul suggested the two countries were still liaising despite their differences.

"We pulled out representatives from Syria because it was not safe. This does not mean we are not in contact with them (the Syrians)," he said, according to Anatolia.

More than 30,000 Syrian refugees have spilled onto Turkish soil, and Turkey is hosting a number of Syrian opposition groups.

CNN's Ivan Watson and Journalist Gül Tüysüz contributed to this report.

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