Iraq sees escalation, fears spillover of Syria crisis

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 23, 2012 8:07 AM

By Anna Ringstrom

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Syria's downing of a Turkish plane marks a serious escalation of the Syrian conflict, Iraq's foreign minister said on Saturday, saying he feared a spillover of the crisis into neighboring countries.

Syria shot down a Turkish jet over the Mediterranean on Friday and Ankara has said it will do whatever is necessary after the incident that threatened to open a new dimension in the 16-month revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Our main concern is the spillover of the crisis into neighboring countries," Hoshiyar Zebari told a news conference with his Swedish, Bulgarian and Polish counterparts in Baghdad.

"No country is immune from this spillover because of the composition of the societies, the extensions, the connections, the sectarian, ethnic dimensions," he said.

If the conflict were to slide into an all-out sectarian or civil war, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey would all be affected, he said. "This is not an excuse to do nothing about Syria, no. But there will be an impact."

He said the crisis had intensified in recent days with the shelling of civilian residential areas, increase in the number of demonstrators killed and the defection of a Syrian pilot who flew his plane to Jordan.

"The shooting down yesterday of a Turkish aircraft over Syrian territorial waters - this is a serious escalation and indication that the conflict would have (a) far bigger impact than (on) Syria itself," Zebari said.

Zebari was speaking after a meeting with the three other foreign ministers who are on an EU-backed mission to help seek solutions to the Syria crisis. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Bulgarian and Polish counterparts were in Lebanon on Friday.

(Writing by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Alison Williams)