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Syria apologises for shooting Turkish warplane

Syrian officials apologised for shooting down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Picture: AFP
Turkey,Syria unrest,syria revolt,NATO,Middle east conflict,Syria elections,Middle east,Turkish warplane shot down in Syria,Middle east peace plan
World

BEIRUT - Syria shot down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean on Friday, risking a new crisis between Middle Eastern neighbours already at bitter odds over a 16-month-old revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Syria had admitted it had shot down the plane and apologised, BBC Monitoring reported, citing Turkey's state news agency Anatolia.

Turkey said earlier it had lost contact with one of its military aircraft off its south-eastern coast after it took off from Erhac airport in the eastern province of Malatya.

Turkish officials said Erdogan, who was returning to Ankara from Brazil on Friday evening, would convene a security meeting with the interior and foreign ministers and the chief of general staff. They did not say what would be discussed.

Turkey's military said a search and rescue operation was under way. Two crew were aboard the F-4 jet, Anatolia said.

NATO-member Turkey, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Assad, turned against the Syrian leader when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world.

Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without U.N. Security Council approval.

Russia and China, Assad's strongest backers abroad, have fiercely opposed any outside interference in the Syrian crisis, saying envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan is the only way forward.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Syrian counterpart that he had urged Syria to "do a lot more" to implement Annan's U.N.-backed proposals, but that foreign countries must also press rebels to stop the violence.

Lavrov said the Syrian authorities were ready to withdraw troops from cities "simultaneously" with rebels. A Syrian military pullback and a ceasefire were key elements in Annan's six-point peace plan, most of which remains a dead letter.

"DESTRUCTIVE COMPETITION"

Annan hit out at some countries he said had taken national initiatives that risked unleashing "destructive competition".

He told a news conference in Geneva that he wanted states with influence on both sides of the conflict to be involved in the peace process, including Iran, Assad's closest ally.

The U.N.-Arab League envoy was speaking a week before a planned Syria crisis meeting that is in doubt because of Western objections to the Islamic Republic's participation.

Violence raged on unabated in Syria, which appears to be sliding towards a sectarian-tinged civil war pitting majority Sunni Muslims against Assad's minority Alawite sect.

Rebels killed at least 25 members of a mainly Alawite pro-Assad militia, and in a separate incident troops turned heavy machineguns on opposition demonstrators in the northern city of Aleppo, killing 10, opposition activists said.

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