Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Turkey calls emergency Nato talks on Syria

  • Leaked map of Syrian air defences (Photo: James L'Angelle)

Turkey has invoked the softer article four of the Nato treaty after Syria shot down one of its warplanes on Friday (22 June).

Its decision will see the 28 Nato countries' ambassadors hold emergency talks in the North Atlantic Council, the political steering group of the military alliance, in Brussels on Tuesday.

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Article four says that any ally can call talks if it thinks its security has been "threatened."

The more tough article five says "an armed attack against one or more [Nato member] ... shall be considered an attack against them all" and permits "the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area."

Article four talks have in the past seen Nato take low-level action - in 2003 it sent patriot rockets to Turkey after Ankara voiced worries about Iraqi scud missiles.

Article five has been invoked just once in Nato's history, after 9/11. But the attack on Afghanistan took place outside Nato structures.

The emergency talks come after Syrian air defences shot down a Turkish F4 jet into the Mediterranean sea.

Syria says the plane violated its airspace.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on national TV on Saturday that it entered Syrian territory by mistake for a moment, but that it was shot down in international airspace. He said it re-entered Syrian airspace after being hit due to "abnormal movements."

Western powers have in the past said military intervention in Syria is impossible without a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution, which is being blocked by Russia, its old ally.

The Nato charter gives it permission to act without the UN, but there is little appetite for military action.

Speaking to EUobserver on Friday morning before the F4 incident, Turkey's EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis said "Putin is the key" to Syria's future, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Its EU ambassador, Selim Yenel, earlier in the week told this website: "There is no easy solution. So maybe they [the rebels] will have to do it themselves, the hard way."

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday plan to impose extra economic santcions on Damascus.

But the British, Dutch and Swedish ministers told press on Monday morning that the F4 incident will not trigger retaliation.

The UK's William Hague said: "I don't think it illustrates a different phase of the Syrian crisis."

The Netherlands' Uri Rosenthal said military action is "out of the question."

Sweden's Carl Bildt noted that "miltarisation of the conflict" could lead to "sectarian fragmentation ... with devastating consequences for years to come." He added that any extra sanctions "will not be decisive" because the regime is insulated from economic problems.

Meanwhile, draft conclusions for an EU summit on Thursday - also written before the F4 incident - say Syria must "stop immediately its attacks against the civilian population."

They call for an "inclusive, orderly and peaceful transition" and note that "all those responsible for ... crimes must be held accountable."

This story was altered at 10.30am Brussels time on 25 June to add the EU foreign ministers' quotes

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