Russian jet downed by Turkey was ‘inside Syria’
The United States believes that the Russian jet shot down by Turkey on Tuesday was hit inside Syrian airspace after a brief incursion into Turkish airspace, a U.S. official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official said that assessment was based on detection of the heat signature of the jet.
Turkish fighter jets shot down the warplane after repeated warnings over air space violations, but Moscow said it could prove the jet had not left Syrian air space.
A Russian military general staff said one of the two pilots were killed, according to Reuters. A Russian military general staff said one of the two pilots were killed, according to Reuters.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Barack Obama on Tuesday agreed on the need to reduce tensions and prevent a repeat of similar incidents after the plane was shot down.
“They were in accord on the importance of de-escalating tensions and making arrangements to prevent a repeat of such incidents,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement following telephone talks between the two leaders.
A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that Turkey warned the Russian pilots repeatedly before shoot down, but they did not respond, Reuters news agency reported.
“We were able to hear everything that was going on, these (communications) were on open channels,” U.S. military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said.
Asked if he could confirm reports 10 warnings were issued by Turkish pilots without response, Warren said: “I can confirm that, yes.” He added it was not immediately clear on which side of the Turkish-Syrian border the Russian jet had been flying.
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday branded the downing a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists.”
The shooting down of the fighter plane was “a stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists,” Putin said at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II. “I cannot call what happened today anything else.”
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday that Turkey had a duty to act against anyone violating its borders.
“Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders,” Davutoglu said in Ankara.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which closely monitors the conflict through a network of activists on the ground, said a rebel group claimed the downing of the helicopter using an anti-tank missile.
NATO calls for ‘cool-headedness’
It was the first time a NATO member’s armed forces have downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s and Russian and Turkish assets fell on fears of an escalation between the former Cold War enemies.
NATO ambassadors called on Ankara to show “cool-headedness” on Tuesday following an emergency meeting in Brussels, diplomats said.
Diplomats present at the meeting told Reuters that while none of the 28 NATO envoys defended Russia’s actions, many expressed concern that Turkey did not escort the Russian warplane out of its airspace.
“There are other ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents,” said one diplomat who declined to be named.
A Kremlin spokesman said it was a “very serious incident” but that it was too early to draw conclusions.
Footage from private Turkish broadcaster Haberturk TV showed the warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it. The plane went down in area known by Turks as “Turkmen Mountain”, it said.
Separate footage from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.
Search for pilots
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the warplane crashed in a mountainous area in the northern countryside of Latakia province, where there had been aerial bombardment earlier and where pro-government forces have been battling insurgents on the ground.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has beheaded foreign captives in the past, is not known to have a presence there.
One of the pilots was in the hands of Turkmen forces in Syria who were looking for the other one, broadcaster CNN Turk reported, citing local sources. Russian military helicopters were also searching for the pilots, Turkey’s Dogan news agency reported.
Both Russia and its ally, Syria’s government, have carried out strikes in the area. A Syrian military source said the reported downing was being investigated.