Turkish PM warns Syria of backlash over plane shooting
By Oliver Holmes and Jon Hemming
BEIRUT/ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Syria to beware the wrath of Turkey after the shooting down of a warplane and said he had ordered the armed forces to react to any military threat from Syria near the two countries' border.
Erdogan's warning to Syria reflected increased tensions not only on the Mediterranean coast, where the aircraft was shot down last Friday, but on a long common land border criss-crossed by rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria said on Sunday it had killed several "terrorists" infiltrating from Turkey.
In Syria itself, Damascus suburbs were gripped by the worst fighting in the capital since the uprising against Assad began 16 months ago. The city had long been seen as a bastion of support for the president.
Erdogan, who fell out with Assad after he dismissed his advice to allow reforms, said Turkey was no warmonger.
"Our rational response should not be perceived as weakness, our mild manners do not mean we are a tame lamb," he told a meeting of his parliamentary party. "Everybody should know that Turkey's wrath is just as strong and devastating as its friendship is valuable."
NATO member states, summoned by Turkey to an urgent meeting in Brussels, condemned Syria over the incident that resulted in the loss of two airmen. The cautious wording of a statement demonstrated the fear of Western powers as well as Turkey that armed intervention in Syria could stir a sectarian conflict across the region.
"Those who want war may be disappointed by the prime minister's speech," Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand wrote on social media. "But a big part of society breathed a sigh of relief." Continued...