Syrian Leader Assad Says He Regrets Shooting down Turkish Plane, Would've Been Happy If It Was Israeli

In comments to Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad said that he was sorry his army shot down a Turkish airplane on June 22, calling the Turkish people friends and brothers. He added if it were an Israeli plane he would have been happy.

I would not wish it for any plane other than an enemy one. Especially for a Turkish plane, I say 100%, if only we did not shoot it down,... The Turkish people are our brothers and something that would make them sad would never make me happy and it did not. If this was an Israeli plane, of course, I would have been happy."

"A plane coming from that side is perceived by the Syrian military as an Israeli plane. It was accepted as an enemy plane, reacted against fast and fired at," he said. "Since we couldn't see it on our radars and no information was given either, the soldiers downed it. We learned that it belonged to Turkey after shooting it down."

Turkey, in response to the shooting of its unarmed jet that was testing Turkey's new national radar system, called an emergency meeting of NATO ministers to gather international support and to decide how to respond. Turkey is a member of NATO and invoked article four of the alliance's clause, requiring member nations gather, and that an attack on one member is seen as an attack of all members of the alliance.

Turkey acknowledges the plane strayed in Syrian airspace, but said it was a mistake and ordered the plane to change course immediately, adding Syria made no attempts to warn or communicate with the airplane before shooting the F-4E Phantom down into the Mediterranean Sea.

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