US to help Turkey hold Syria ‘accountable’

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Reuters

(File image) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Washington - The United States said on Monday it would work with NATO ally Turkey to hold Syria accountable for what U.S. officials believe was a deliberate act of shooting down a Turkish fighter jet.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States stood in solidarity with Turkey as it investigated last Friday's downing of the Turkish jet and determined its response.

But Carney sidestepped questions about what an appropriate response might be to the incident, which has sent tensions soaring between Ankara and Damascus as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeks to put down a 16-month-old revolt.

“We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable,” Carney told reporters on board Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to New Hampshire.

“We are in close contact with Turkish officials as they investigate,” Carney said, noting that Turkey was expected to make a presentation about the incident at a NATO meeting on Tuesday.

Turkey said on Monday it had no intention of going to war over the incident.

Washington has already condemned the jet's downing in strong terms. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday called it a “brazen and unacceptable act.”

At a Pentagon briefing on Monday, officials said they believed the downing was deliberate.

“We don't have the tick-tock of the decision-making process that led to this aircraft being shot down,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby. “The fact is that it was shot down. We believe it was a deliberate act.”

Pentagon spokesman George Little added: “And the Syrian regime needs to answer for it.”

“This once again shows the illegitimacy of the Assad regime and what it's doing and is deeply troubling,” Little said.

Syria has described the shooting down of the Turkish warplane as an act of self-defense, and warned Turkey and its NATO allies against retaliatory measures.

The State Department said senior officials including Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman had been in touch with their Turkish counterparts, and would be listening for Turkey's suggestions at Tuesday's NATO meeting.

“Essentially we start with being in listening mode to an ally which has asked for the consultation, and then we go from there,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.

“We have to see what Turkey comes in with and what it wants from NATO after it briefs on the situation.” - Reuters


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