Assad: We shot down Turkish jet thinking it was Israeli

 

Beirut

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tried to diffuse tension with neighbouring Turkey yesterday – or appeared to, at least – as he expressed regret that his forces shot down a Turkish jet last month and said he does not want the relationship between the two countries to spiral into conflict.

Mr Assad's comments, made in an interview published yesterday with the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, may have on the surface have sounded like a rare act of contrition. But Mr Assad was soon to shift the blame, saying that Turkey's decision to cut channels of communication meant the reconnaissance plane had been mistaken for an Israeli jet.

Meanwhile, Mr Assad faced widespread condemnation and outrage yesterday after Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed incidents of systematic torture by his regime, accusing it of using methods such as administering electric shocks to the genitals and ripping out fingernails.

"We learned that [the plane] belonged to Turkey after shooting it down. I say 100 per cent 'if only we had not shot it down'," he was quoted as saying. "It's a shame that now we don't even have the telephone number of a single commander in the Turkish army we can call in an emergency situation."

Mr Assad's remarks come as his forces face increasing pressure on the ground. With rebels becoming increasingly better armed and casualties rising among soldiers, it is not surprising that the regime should seek to diffuse any additional conflict with its forces so overstretched.

Turkey scrambled F-16 jets to the Syrian border for a third day on Monday after Syrian helicopters were spotted in the vicinity. "We will not allow [tensions] to turn into open combat between the two countries, which would harm them both," Mr Assad said.

The continuing flow of defections is also adding to pressure on the regime's forces. Some 85 Syrian troops, including a general and five other officers, crossed into neighbouring Turkey with 300 family members on Monday night, according to local media. Such an exodus would mark the biggest single day of military defections since the beginning of the uprising.

Those who do not make it out are often the subjects of horrific torture by state security forces, HRW said yesterday. Prolonged beatings with objects such as batons and cables, stress positions, suspension upside down, electric shocks and the use of acid, sexual assault and humiliation were routinely used by Mr Assad's forces, the report, based on around 200 interviews, said.

Among those interviewed by the rights group was a 14-year-old boy who said he was interrogated three times, subjected to electric shocks and had his fingernails pulled out. Some 27 detention facilities on the ground were identified as being used for torture.

HRW called for those in charge to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), while Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday that the UK would work with its EU partners to impose sanctions on those responsible. In Cairo, an Arab League-brokered opposition meeting that has been plagued by infighting concluded yesterday. The Syrian General Revolution Commission pulled out, saying it could not consider a political solution after the Free Syrian Army denounced the meeting. Building the Syrian State, a moderate grassroots opposition group, also said it was not talking part, dismissing any discussions held outside the country.

But a further meeting of Syrian opposition leaders has been scheduled to be held in Moscow next week, further testing relations between Russia and the West over the crisis. Previous talks in Geneva closed with the major nations unable to even agree what the final text meant. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it did not imply that Mr Assad should step down, but the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "Assad will still have to go".

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?