Turkey branded its former ally Syria “a clear and imminent threat,” on Tuesday as its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vented his fury over the downing of a Turkish fighter jet.
In his most outspoken criticism of the Damascus regime, Erdogan vowed to retaliate against the “heinous act” and promised a change of military attitude to any Syrian officer approaching the common border.
“The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed given this new development,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament following the shooting down of F-4 Phantom jet Friday. The two pilots are still missing.
Any risk posed by Syria on the Turkish border will be “considered a threat and treated as a military target,” he said in a jam-packed room of lawmakers who frequently interrupted the address with applause.
Erdogan said his government would retaliate “with determination” and take what he called the “necessary steps by determining the time, place and method by itself”.
The prime minister said Turkey’s military jet violated the Syrian airspace for a short time and “by mistake” and repeated that it was unarmed, flying solo when it was shot down by Syria “without a single warning.”
“We did not receive a single warning, note from Syria (regarding airspace violation)…They acted without warning. This is a hostile act,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said that Turkish airspace had been violated 114 times by military aircraft from different countries, including Syria, since January 1, 2012.
“Syrian helicopters violated our airspace five times. These were short-term violations,” to which Turkey issued the necessary warnings, Erdogan noted.
“This latest development shows that the Assad regime has become a clear and imminent threat to the security of Turkey, as well as for its own people,” he added.
Erdogan broke with former friend and ally Assad, whom he called “a bloody dictator,” after unrest that erupted mid-March last year met a bloody response from Damascus, sending more than 33,000 refugees into Turkey.
“Turkey will support Syrian people in every way until they get rid of the bloody dictator and his gang,” he said on Tuesday.