A Turkish air force fighter plane is missing in waters just off the Syrian coastline. The office of Turkey's prime minister says it can now confirm earlier reports the aircraft was shot down by Syrian forces.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office said in a statement that Syria shot down a Turkish warplane in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday.
"As a result of information obtained from the evaluation of our concerned institutions and from within the joint search and rescue operations with Syria, it is understood that our plane was brought down by Syria," Erdogan's office said.
Damascus has not yet confirmed that its forces were responsible for downing the jet.
Turkish and Syrian ships and helicopters had been conducting a search and rescue mission for the plane, which media sources identified as an F4 fighter jet, and its two pilots, Erdogan told a nationally televised news conference earlier in the day. At the time he had not been able to confirm a report that Syria was responsible.
"The Chief of General Staff has made the necessary statement about the missing plane. I cannot say it was brought down at the point it fell. It is not possible to say this without knowing the exact facts," Erdogan said at a news conference in Ankara.
Gunboats from both sides in search
Erdogan was able to verify the plane went down 13 kilometers (eight miles) from the Syrian town of Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea.
"Four of our gunboats and some Syrian gunboats are carrying out a joint search there," he said at the conference, adding he had no news on the pilots or condition of the aircraft.
He said he also had no information on claims Syrian authorities had captured the missing pilots, or why the Turkish military plane was in the area.
A detailed statement would be issued later on Friday following a meeting of cabinet and military leaders, he told the conference.
Turkey, a NATO member, was a close ally of Syria until it turned on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad following his violent response to pro-democracy protests inspired by unrest elsewhere in the Arab world.
jlw, rc /av (dpa, Reuters, AP)