Syrian army accuses Turkey of escalating tensions

Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Syrian military on Tuesday accused Turkey of seeking to escalate tensions along the two nations' already volatile border by shooting down a Syrian military helicopter there the day before.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Syrian military said the helicopter was on a mission to monitor for cross-border infiltration of rebels when it "mistakenly" entered Turkish airspace.

Turkey's deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara Monday that the Syrian helicopter was shot down by a fighter jet after it entered Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings to leave.

He said the helicopter strayed 2 kilometers (more than 1 mile) inside Turkey, but crashed inside Syria after being hit by missiles fired from the jet.

Arinc said he did not have any information on the fate of the Syrian pilots, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel fighters captured one of the two crew members, while the fate of the other one was unclear.

The Syrian military said the helicopter entered Turkish space "for a short distance" by mistake.

"The hasty reaction from the Turkish side, particularly that the helicopter was heading back and was not on a fighting mission, reveals the real intentions" of Ankara to ramp up tensions, it said.

Turkey has been at odds with the Syrian government since early in the country's civil war and has backed the Syrian rebels, while advocating international intervention in the conflict.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking in Paris after meetings about Syria with his counterparts from other countries, said Monday's incident should send a message. "Nobody will dare to violate Turkey's borders in any way again," he said, according to Anatolia, the Turkish state-run news agency. "The necessary measures have been taken."

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