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".

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone