Bodies of Turkish pilots from downed jet found in Mediterranean

Tensions between Syria and Turkey have risen further after Turkey announced that the bodies of the pilots on the downed jet had been found.

An American undersea diver who located the Titanic helped in the search for the jet wreckage in the Mediterranean.

The pilots had been missing since Syria shot down a Turkish F-4 Phantom fighter jet on 22 June, precipitating a major crisis between the two countries.

"The bodies [of the two pilots] have been discovered in the seabed and work is under way to bring them to surface," the Turkish army said.

A statement maintained that the jet was shot down in international airspace, contradicting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's claim that it had been in Syrian airspace.

In a ratcheting up of hostility between the two countries, Assad told the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not to be trusted and was shedding crocodile tears for the Syrian people.

"Turkey has supplied all logistic support to the terrorists who have killed our people," Assad said. He alleged that Turkey allowed anti-government forces to launch attacks on Syria from within its border, a claim Turkey has denied.

The tense relationship between the countries, formerly friendly neighbours, has been mounting since the unarmed jet was shot down and both sides have been massing troops on the border.

After gaining Nato's support, Turkey deployed anti-aircraft batteries in the border area and warned Syrian aircraft to stay away. Even a minor border violation by Syrian forces would be taken seriously, the Turkish government has warned.

Turkish authorities believe that fires on the border were set deliberately by Syrian forces.

State television reported that the fires were started in areas where Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey to flee the fighting and were also intended to destroy buildings to deny shelter to anti-Assad rebels.