A rescue plane searching for a Turkish fighter jet that had been shot down over the eastern Mediterranean was itself placed in the crosshairs by the Syrian military, a European diplomat told AFP on Monday.
The Turkish army Casa CN-235, a twin-propellor transport, was targeted by a Syrian ground-to-air defence system as it looked Friday for the F4 Phantom jet that had been downed earlier with its crew of two, said the diplomat.
“When a plane is targeted by such a defence system, the pilots are warned by their instruments that they are targeted,” added the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. But the plane was not shot at, he noted.
The source was not able to say if the plane was in Syrian or international airspace when the Syrian radar locked on to it.
On Sunday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu briefed diplomats from EU and NATO member states about the incident and held a second round of meetings with diplomats from other countries.
Turkey, a former ally of Syria, called for an emergency NATO meeting Tuesday after accusing Damascus of shooting down its jet in international airspace.
Davutoglu said in televised remarks Sunday that the F4 was unarmed and was fired on after it had left Syrian airspace.
Turkey says the jet stayed over Syrian airspace for three minutes and Syria says it was five minutes, the European diplomat told AFP.
He also said it was hard to figure out what happened on Friday because Turkey is not a party to the Montego Bay Convention of 1982 on the law of the sea because of its territorial disputes with neighbouring Greece.
Rescue teams are still searching for the wreckage of the Phantom 1,300 metres (4,000 feet) down in Syrian waters. Turkish diplomatic sources said it was still unclear if the pilots had ejected and the search was continuing.
Turkey mobilised efforts to find the wreckage with one coast guard vessel, two frigates, four high-speed boats, five helicopters and several aircraft including the one targeted by Syria, the European diplomat noted.