June 25, 2012

Turkish fighter shootdown concerns Panetta, press secretary says

by Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta shares the State Department’s deep concern over the June 22 shootdown by Syrian forces of a Turkish F-4 fighter and two Turkish pilots, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said June 25.

After speaking with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned what she called a “brazen and unacceptable act.”

“It is yet another reflection of the Syrian authorities’ callous disregard for international norms, human life, and peace and security,” Clinton said.

“The [Syrian] action speaks for itself,” Little told reporters, “and we believe that it was, to use Secretary Clinton’s words, a ‘brazen act’ … and the Syrian regime needs to answer for it.”

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said the Defense Department has seen nothing to indicate the shootdown wasn’t deliberate.

After the shootdown, Little said, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart, Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Ozelto, to express concern over the loss of the Turkish pilots.

Navy Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, also spoke with one of his Turkish counterparts, Little said, adding that Greenert traveled to Turkey June 19-22 to foster the relationship between U.S. and Turkish naval forces.

Turkey has called for a consultation of the North Atlantic Council under Article 4 of the NATO treaty. The meeting will take place tomorrow in Brussels. Under Article 4, any ally can request consultations whenever they believe their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened.

The council includes ambassadors of all 28 NATO allies, and Little said the discussion will be led by the State Department, represented by Ambassador Ivo Daalder.

“We will be present at the discussions in Brussels with our NATO allies,” the press secretary added, “and beyond that, it’s really for our counterparts to discuss what may or may not happen.”

The Defense Department maintains a very strong military relationship with its Turkish allies, Little said, and department officials will “continue to have discussions with them about the equipment they need to defend themselves.”

The press secretary said Defense Department officials stand ready to assist the Turkish government in the rescue and recovery effort for the missing pilots “if they request such help.”

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