Entries in Turkey (56)


Hillary Clinton in Turkey Wants Quick End to Syrian Conflict

Win McNamee/Getty Images(ISTANBUL) --  As she had been telling reporters throughout the week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came through on her promise Saturday to discuss contingency plans with the Turks regarding the possible collapse of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Following talks with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul, Clinton said, "There is a very clear understanding about the need to end this conflict quickly, but not doing it in a way that produces even more deaths, injuries and destruction."

Since Syria is its neighbor, Turkey is particularly interested in a fast and peaceful resolution to the 18-month-long conflict between government and rebel forces that has cost more than 20,000 lives by some estimates. Other figures put the death toll between 15,000-17,000.

Istanbul feels it has been doing most of the heavy lifting in dealing with the influx of refugees from Syria and is looking for the international community to get more involved, particularly Washington.

Still, monetary aid is coming.  The U.S. has pledged $25 million in non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, and Clinton said on Saturday that $5 million would be donated by the United Nations to assist refugees.

Her talks with the Turkish foreign minister centered around Syrians fleeing their country to escape violence, dealing with a power vacuum should al-Assad be deposed, and what to do to keep Syria's chemical weapons arsenal out of the wrong hands.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top Syrian General Defects; Turkey Recovers Pilots Downed by Syria

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- There have been numerous defections by members of the Syrian military during the country’s 16-month-long uprising, but President Bashar al-Assad suffered a personal embarrassment on Thursday when a general who was once a close adviser reportedly defected.

The Telegraph reports Brigadier Gen. Manaf Tlas, the top commander of Syria’s elite Republican Guard who also served as a member of Assad’s inner circle, has fled to Turkey.

The newspaper says a pro-Syrian government website confirmed Tlas had fled to Turkey, but downplayed the significance of his defection.  A security official was quoted as saying, “His escape does not mean anything.”

The report says Gen. Tlas comes from one of the most famous families in Syria.  

Opposition forces claim 15 generals have defected and joined the rebels in recent months.

Meanwhile, Turkey says it has recovered the bodies of two pilots whose jet was shot down by Syria on June 22.  A nationally-televised state funeral for the two is set for Friday.  The downing of the jet has strained relations between the two countries.

The pilots’ bodies and part of their jet’s wreckage was located with the help of oceanographer Robert Ballard and his team aboard the deep-sea exploration vessel Nautilus.  Ballard, of course, is best known for locating the wreck of the Titanic.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dozens of Syrian Soldiers Defect

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The 16-month conflict between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces shows no signs of ending anytime soon, but 85 members of Syria’s military have apparently had enough.

Turkish state TV reported on Monday that 85 Syrian soldiers, including a general, have defected from the Syrian Army and fled into Turkey. 

Other Syrian soldiers have defected in the past, but the size of Monday’s group indicates there is growing uneasiness about the Syrian military’s efforts against anti-government forces.

The conflict has claimed more than 15,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Turkey Scrambles F-16 Jets to Syrian Border

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(ANKARA, Turkey) -- The relationship between Syria and Turkey became further strained on Saturday, when the Turkish Air Force scrambled six F-16 fighter jets following sightings of Syrian helicopters near the border between the two countries, Turkish military officials said.  

Authorities in Turkey say there was no violation of Turkish airspace.

The deployment follows Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning that his country had changed its rules of military engagement and would now treat any Syrian military approaching the border as a threat.

The change came after June 22, when Syrian forces shot down a Turkish jet in the border area.  In response, Turkey announced this past Friday it was deploying rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns in the region.

Syria says the Turkish F-4 jet was shot down by Syrian air defenses inside its airspace.  The plane crashed in the Mediterranean, and its pilots are still missing.  Turkey insists the jet was shot down in international airspace.

Turkey's government has been an outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s response to the 16-month uprising against his rule, which has resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and 30,000 Syrian refugees entering Turkey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Turkey Moves Defensive Artillery to Syrian Border 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Still reeling over the shoot-down of one of its war jets last week, Turkey has since deployed anti-aircraft batteries on its border with Syria.

While such action suggests Ankara is preparing for an armed conflict with its neighbor, a Turkish military spokesman insisted on Thursday that the positioning of heavy artillery was purely for defensive purposes only.

However, the spokesman didn't underplay the downing of the aircraft by Syria, even as Damascus insisted it was an accident.

The Turkish military official added that Syrian helicopters had strayed into his nation's airspace last month and under the new rules of engagement instituted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish army can fire on Syrian forces that approach its border.

The shoot-down of the Phantom F-4 has heightened tensions between Ankara and Damascus.

Relations between Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began to falter when Syrian forces started their crackdown on anti-government forces 16 months ago.  Since then, Turkey has expelled Syria's ambassador and closed down its own mission in Damascus.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Official: Downed Turkish Jet Probably Mistaken for Israeli Plane

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A high-ranking Syrian government official suggested on Wednesday that last week's shoot-down of a Turkish war jet was a mistake.

However, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoebi likely started another controversy by stating that the military might have believed the plane was actually an Israeli aircraft.

Al-Zoebi told Turkish news channel A Haber in an interview that Syrian forces might have made the error because most war jets used by Turkey and Israel look the same because they're mostly made by the U.S.

Nevertheless, the Syrian minister insisted that his government did not intend to start a conflict with Turkey over the incident.

Acting on a request from Ankara, NATO has condemned Syria for the downing of the plane, but will take no military action to intervene. Turkey has said it would respond militarily if Syria moves its troops close to their shared border.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mystery Deepens in Plane Crash, Helmets Found But No Pilots

Kazuhiro Ibuki - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Search teams have reportedly found the boots and helmets belonging to two Turkish aviators whose plane was shot down by Syrian forces last week, but there’s still no sign of the pilots themselves.

Top Turkish officials announced today the helmets were found among the two-seat Air Force plane’s wreckage, Turkey’s prominent Hurriyet Daily reported. No parachutes have been found, but the flyers’ boots were discovered days before, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan said it was unclear whether the pilots had been able to eject before the plane went down.

Still, that might not have mattered, according to former fighter pilot and ABC News consultant Steve Ganyard. The plane that was hit, reportedly a reconnaissance version of the F-4 Phantom fighter,  is an old yet extremely fast aircraft, capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. Ganyard said that even if the pilots managed to eject, it would’ve been difficult for them to survive the ejection alone and it’s possible the sheer wind blast could have ripped the helmet and boots from them. If the pilots were unable to eject, Ganyard said, a plane as fast as the Phantom could have hit the water “as if it were concrete” — spreading debris wide and leaving little intact.

Still, the search continues.

In addition to the mystery of what happened to the pilots, Turkey and Syria continue to disagree about what led to the shoot down in the first place. In a letter written to the United Nations early this week, the Turkish government claimed the unarmed plane had been flying in international airspace when it suddenly came under fire from Syrian air defenses. After being hit, the plane turned and entered Syrian airspace before crashing, the letter said.

Still, a day before that letter was sent, a top Syrian official told the Syrian State News Agency that the plane had “blatantly” violated Syrian airspace and the shooting was a defensive and sovereign act. Jihad Makdessi, a spokesperson for Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry, said the jet had gone deep into Syrian airspace before it triggered an automatic air defense system.

The incident prompted a stern warning from the Turkish government about future military action and NATO condemnation, but the father of one of the pilots urged restraint from his leaders.

“It is not appropriate to go to war over a pilot, an airplane or 50 airplanes,” Ali Erton, father of missing pilot Capt. Gokhan Ertan, told a Turkish television station. “What matters is that my son serves his country… I am a man of faith and do not believe martyrs ever die.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NATO Won't Take Military Action in Response to Turkish Jet Downing

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BRUSSELS) -- Turkey may have to take matters into its own hands following last week's downing of one of its fighter jets by Syrian forces after NATO announced Tuesday that there would be no collective armed response to the crisis.

Ankara had requested a response from the alliance to the loss of its Phantom F-4 jet in which two pilots are still missing.  Turkey says the shoot-down occurred over international waters and was unprovoked.

In Brussels Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared, "We stand together with Turkey in spirit of solidarity" and condemned the action by Syrian forces.

However, the NATO head said the alliance did not discuss invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty that calls for an armed response on behalf of a member that has been attacked.

Frustrated by NATO's decision not to intervene, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoan made it clear that the downing of its plane would not go unanswered.

He also warned, "Any military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria by posing a security risk and danger will be regarded as a threat and treated as a military target."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NATO Condemns Syria for Downing Turkish Plane

NATO(BRUSSELS) -- NATO condemned Syria on Tuesday for downing a Turkish fighter jet last Friday.

After holding an emergency session on the incident in Brussels, the North Atlantic Council issued a statement saying, "We consider this act to be unacceptable and condemn it in the strongest terms.  It is another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life."

Turkey claims Syria shot down the F-4 plane over international waters without provocation, and called on NATO last week to hold the emergency meeting under Article 4 of its founding charter, which entitles allies to request a consultation if they feel their territorial integrity, political independence, or security is threatened.

Two pilots were lost in the crash.

"Our thoughts at this difficult time are with the missing Turkish aircrew, their families and their loved ones," the North Atlantic Council said in its statement.  "We continue to follow the situation closely and with great concern, and will remain seized of developments on the South-Eastern border of NATO."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High-Ranking Syrian Military Officers Defect to Turkey

Alessio Romenzi/AFP/Getty Images(ANKARA, Turkey) -- Turkey is still furious with Syria for shooting down one of its fighter jets last Friday, but it is more than glad to accept Syrian military defectors.

In the latest sign that there's trouble within the ranks, a Syrian general, two colonels, two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers have sought asylum in Turkey, according to state TV there.

Another report says that many of the soldiers brought family members with them, making at least 224 people who are looking to escape the violence in their country.

Until now, most military members who have left Syria have been low-level defectors.

The current group was brought to a refugee camp in the Turkish province of Hatay.  All told, there are an estimated 33,000 Syrians now living in Turkey, who have fled the 16-month-long government crackdown that one group claims has cost more than 15,000 lives.

Meanwhile, Turkey awaits a response from NATO members meeting in Brussels on Tuesday about the downing of a F-4 plane in which two pilots were lost.  Ankara claims Syria shot down the aircraft over international waters without provocation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio