A convoy of NATO warships has left Turkey for the Mediterranean Sea purportedly to carry out anti-terrorism operations in the region, a report says.
According to a July 5 report published by the Turkish Hurriyet Daily
, the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 set off from Istanbul.
The group consists of Turkey’s TCG Gediz, France’s Courbet and Germany’s Bayern warships and the three frigates have a total of 545 crew members on board, with Germany leading the mission.
German Rear Admiral Thorsten Kahler said on Wednesday that the mission of the maritime group is “to give a clear message to terrorists in the region that NATO is on duty.”
“We are not telling our whole schedule, but we will stay in the region.”
Kahler said the anti-terrorism mission is “the only Article 5 mission of NATO so far.”
Article 5 of the Washington Treaty of NATO says the member states “agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”
The development comes days after Syria said on June 22 that its air defense forces shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom in the Syrian airspace “according to the laws that govern such situations.” The warplane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told TRT television on June 24, “According to our conclusions, our plane was shot down in international airspace, 13 nautical miles from Syria.”
However, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said in a press conference in Damascus on June 25 that the Turkish warplane “violated Syrian airspace, and in turn Syrian air defenses fired back and the plane crashed inside Syrian territorial waters.”
On June 26, the North Atlantic Council, which is the principal political decision-making body within NATO, met in Brussels upon a request from Ankara to discuss the issue of the Turkish aircraft.
The Hurriyet Daily
reported on the same day that Ankara had deployed a “large number of military vehicles to the Syrian border,” including “15 armored tanks, in addition to long-distance guns and other military vehicles.”
In addition, the Turkish army said in a statement issued on July 1 that it had scrambled six F-16 warplanes near the border with Syria in response to Syrian helicopters flying close to the region.