Turkey and Syria – part 1

part 1 – a few miles to war

careful vigilance is advisable when reading the news. this is not to discredit work done by journalists; differences in articles may be caused by different sources of information as well as by misleading facts given by officials. caution and a mere questioning of what you read, though, is a lesson learned by following different papers on a certain situation. the question is not only how news and which facts are presented, but also what is told in comparison to what is not told and when the immediate media focus stops.

it is only two month ago that the headlines where filled with the incident of the turkish airplane being taken down by syria. yet the news today are filled with conflicts in the kurdish region of both countries – who still remembers the incident about the plane?

today it is “an incident” only, but by the time it happened, turkey as well as all nato countries were at the edge of war. yet the coverage of this incident diverges by paper. (to be correct about this comparison – the newspaper articles were not written at the same day and might be influenced by further information available at that time as well.)

dieSueddeutsche (23.6.) talks about a military jet on a reconnaissance mission that was shot down 8 sea miles outside of latakia.


the washington post (26.06.) spends a great deal of information on the syrian weapon system and their russian-supported-advance since the israel attack on their nuclear reactor. about the taking down of the plane it is stated that the plane entered the syrian airspace but left after being warned and that turkey lost contact with the aircraft 13 miles off shore.


it might seem like an insignificant detail that the german paper is talking about 8 nautical miles while the washington post suggests that the plane was taken down 13 sea miles off the shore. the difference in miles is decisive for war, though. the convention of the united nations on the law of sea 1982 states in section 2 article 3 that “every state has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles…” (http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf )

taking the definition of territory by the united nations as international law, a crossing of this line by the turkish plane would have clearly violated the law and would further enforce the charter of the united nations article 2 (4) that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity…” (http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/chapter1.shtml) the value of the state’s sovereignty and the national territory in international relations allows for every syrian reaction of protection.

on the other hand, if the plane was hit more than 12 miles – as suggested by the washington post – off the shore, the reaction of syria to shoot the plane was an attack in international territories and hence a direct attack on turkey. this would enforce article 5 of the nato charter “the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all…” (http://www.nato.int/terrorism/five.htm) meaning that nato countries would arm themselves for war against syria for attacking one of their members.

the differences in information in the two papers compared derives from vague statements given by each side – turkey and syria – as well as from the incoherence in the time of writing the articles. still, reading the one or the other paper and basing the judgement on the situation presented in each writing, leads to a very different conclusion about how to react to the “incident”.

in the case of the turkey-syria-plane incident the case was solved by diplomatic talks, which were not visible to the public anymore for they lost their immediate “newsworthy” media focus and the “incident” has been forgotten ever since.

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