Assad admits regret at Turkish jet attack
Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has told a Turkish newspaper he wished his forces had not shot down a Turkish jet last month.
Assad also expressed a desire that he would not allow tensions between the neighbouring countries to turn into open combat.
“We learned that it (the plane) belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 per cent ‘if only we had not shot it down’,” the Cumhuriyet newspaper yesterday quoted Assad as saying.
A Turkish minister dismissed Al Assad’s comments as a public relations game.
Asked whether the increased friction between Syria and Turkey could lead to war, Assad said: “We will not allow (the tensions) to turn into open combat between the two countries, which would harm them both.”
He also said Syria had not and would not build up its military forces along the Turkish border, whatever action Turkey takes.
Assad said Syria no longer had any contacts with the Turkish military that it would normally have with a neighbouring state so as to avoid just this sort of incident.
“It’s a shame that now we don’t even have the telephone number of a single commander in the Turkish army we can call in an emergency situation,” he said.
Assad said Syria would not shy away from apologising if
it emerged the plane was shot down in international
air space. “The plane was using a corridor which Israeli planes have used three times before.
“Of course I might have been happy if this had been an Israeli plane,” Assad added.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Assad was trying to curry favour with public opinion. “It is nothing new that Israel uses these corridors, they constantly use them,” he told Turkish state television.
“If the Syrian administration says it shot it, thinking it was an Israeli plane, then they would have shot many Israeli planes down by now.”