NATO meets on Turkey jet, fierce clashes in Damascus

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Damascus, Jun 26: NATO members were holding emergency talks on Syria's downing of a Turkish warplane, as a monitoring group reported fierce clashes today around elite Republican Guard posts in suburbs of Damascus.

The United States, meanwhile, denounced the UN's "colossal failure" to protect civilians inside Syria.

The NATO meeting in Brussels was being held after a fuming Ankara told the UN Security Council that Syria's downing of one of its fighter jets last Friday posed a "serious threat to peace and security". Damascus insists the plane had violated its airspace and "sovereignty."

"The aircraft did not display any hostile attitude or manoeuvre and was flying with its identification systems open. The shooting came without any prior warning," Turkey said in a letter to the Security Council and UN chief Ban Ki-moon and which was obtained by AFP.

Turkey's UN ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said the incident was "a serious threat to peace and security in the region, in the context of the Syrian crisis" but did not call for the world body to act against Damascus. Syria has defended its downing of the Turkish F-4 Phantom jet.

"The Turkish warplane violated Syrian airspace, and in turn Syrian air defences fired back and the plane crashed inside Syrian territorial waters," foreign ministry spokesman Jihad al-Makdissi said yesterday.

The incident has reignited international concern over the Syria conflict. Today, Syrian armed rebel forces and regime army units were locked in fierce clashes around elite Republican Guard posts in the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


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