Turkey announced that it has not found traces of explosives on the ruins of a fighter jet it has claimed was downed by Syria, raising new questions about the incident that inflamed tensions between the two countries, AFP reported.
“No traces of explosives or flammable products were found on the debris recovered from the sea,” a statement from Turkey’s general staff said on Wednesday.
For the first time, the army also declined to use the term “shot down by Syria” instead referring to “our plane that Syria claimed to have destroyed.”
Turkey has previously maintained that the F-4 Phantom was shot down in international airspace over the eastern Mediterranean by Syrian fire on June 22, further impairing relations between the one-time allies.
Two weeks after the incident, a Turkish rescue team recovered the bodies of the two pilots from the wreckage. Most of the remains, however, lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
“A technical investigation is ongoing on the parts we have salvaged, and on the video footage of other parts still lying at the bottom of the sea,” the statement added.
Turkish experts claim, however, that the only way of uncovering the truth behind the story that continues to make international headlines is to recover all of the wreckage.
“Syria thinks they opened fire and shot down the plane, Turkey thinks the plane was shot down. But now we have the third option that the plane might have just crashed trying to dodge fire,” the Haberturk daily quoted security analyst Nihat Ali Ozcan as saying, according to the AFP.
“The announcement from the army command does not confirm or refute Turkey’s or Syria’s explanation for that matter,” retired vice-admiral Atilla Kiyat told the same daily.
Syria maintains that the fighter was flying low in Syrian airspace when it was shot down by shore-based anti-aircraft guns. Turkish media speculated that the plane might have crashed due to pilot error or technical failure.
“I think we are increasingly witnessing politics enter into the scene here,” former air force general Erdogan Karakus told Hurriyet daily. “I am feeling Turkey might be gradually giving up on its missile claims,” he noted.
Earlier this week U.S. officials claimed that they were privy to details of the incident but refused to release such information to the press.
"Those in the American government who need to know [details] know them," a U.S. Foreign Affairs official told Hurriyet Daily. "But we will make no statements about the topics in question."