Russia on Tuesday urged Turkey and Syria to show restraint in wake of last week's downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syrian forces, and stressed that the incident should not be considered a provocation or allowed to further destabilize the already tense situation in the region.
"The escalation of politics and propaganda, including on the international level, is especially dangerous when efforts are being undertaken to mobilize all major outside players to channel the situation in Syria in a political direction," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying by the official RiaNovosti news agency on Tuesday.
Lukashevich also voiced Russia's concerns over the volatile situation and urged both Ankara and Damascus to cooperate with the investigation into the incident.
The Russian reaction was apparently triggered by concerns that Turkey might use the incident as an excuse to launch a war against Syria with the aim of toppling the Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow has so far opposed any foreign military intervention in Syria and resisted western efforts to punish Assad's regime at the UN over its brutal repression. Russia, along with China, has vetoed two western backed resolutions on the Syrian crisis. The two nations insist on a political dialogue between President Assad and his opponents to resolve the crisis.
Moreover, Russia continues to supply military equipment to the Assad regime despite calls by Western nations to impose a U.N. arms embargo on Syria. Russia has a naval base in Syria, and fears that it could loose a stronghold in the Middle East region if the Syrian regime is toppled.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad broke out 15 months ago. Nonetheless, the opposition claims the actual death toll to be much higher. The Assad government continues to blame "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign mercenaries for the violence.
The latest developments come after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance jet over the Mediterranean on June 22. Although Ankara insists that the incident took place in international air space, the Syrian government claims that the targeted aircraft had violated its air space.
A meeting of NATO ministers held Tuesday on Turkey's request condemned the downing of the Turkish fighter jet, and described the incident "another example of the Syrian authorities' disregard for international norms, peace and security, and human life."
But the NATO ministers agreed that the incident cannot be viewed as aggression against the western military alliance. Nevertheless, NATO ministers made it clear that the alliance would continue to "stand together with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity." Turkey had invoked Article 4 of NATO's charter, under which consultations can be requested when an ally feels its security is threatened.
Turkey has been providing refuge to Syrian dissidents fleeing the brutal security crackdown at home. Although Turkey has been wary of military intervention in Syria, Ankara signaled recently that the large inflow of Syrian refugees as well as massacres and atrocities committed by Syrian government troops, could force it to act.
Turkey and Syria shared close ties until recently, but relations between the former allies are currently at an all time low because of Turkey's strong criticism of Syrian regime's continued crackdown on protesters since the unrest began in March 2011.
by RTT Staff Writer
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