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Turkey threatens Syria with power cuts over downed jet

Latest update : 26/06/2012

Article text by News Wires

Turkey threatened on Monday to halt electricity exports to Syria in retaliation for last week's "hostile" downing of a fighter jet. Syria says it acted in self-defence in an affair that has raised tensions between the rival powers.

AFP - Turkish Vice Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on Monday said the shooting down of a fighter jet by Syria was a "hostile act of the highest order" and claimed a rescue plane was also attacked.

Arinc also told a news conference after a cabinet meeting to discuss Friday's incident, which has fuelled fresh tensions between the once close neighbours, that Ankara could halt power supplies to Damascus.

"To target an aircraft in this fashion without any warning is a hostile act of the highest order," he said, adding that the F-4 Phantom was struck by a heat-seeking guided missile in international airspace.

He also said Syrian troops opened fire on a rescue plane searching for the pilots but did not specify when.

"One of our CASA planes took off with a rescue team. Unfortunately, shots from the ground targeted our plane.

"Our foreign ministry and our military command notified Syrian authorities and this harassment ceased immediately," Arinc said, adding: "Everyone must know that this sort of behaviour will not go unpunished."

He said Ankara would respond within the framework of international law.

Earlier, a European diplomat told AFP a 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 jet.

"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 NATO alliance is to hold an emergency meeting on Friday's incident in Brussels on Tuesday at the request of member nation Turkey.

Turkey-Syria relations were already strained by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's outspoken condemnation of the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown, which rights activists say has killed more than 15,000 people since March 2011.

Arinc warned that Ankara could switch off power exports, saying: "We have considered that for humanitarian reasons one should supply electricity to Syria so that the daily lives of the people are not affected.

"For the moment we will continue with this... but in one or two days there will be a declaration whether we will continue or not."

Private Turkish operator Aksa planned to supply 500 kilowatt hours of electricity to Syria this year, mainly to the city of Aleppo, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.

The downing of the Turkish jet has triggered a chorus of international condemnation as well as appeals for restraint to prevent a military escalation of the Syria conflict which is now in its 16th month.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg sought to up the pressure on Syria, imposing new sanctions targeting government ministries and companies, including a bank and a television channel.



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