Russia conducting observation flights over Turkish airspace under Open Skies Treaty
ANKARARussia is due to conduct observation flights over Turkish territory on Feb. 1-5, under the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies, the Turkish General Staff has announced. The flights come days after Turkey said a Russian SU-34 jet had violated its airspace on Jan. 29 despite warnings, once more stoking tensions between two countries supporting opposite sides in Syria’s war.
According to an implementation conducted since 2006 under the Treaty on Open Skies, Turkey conducts observation flights over Russian airspace approximately four times a year, while Russia conducts observation flights over Turkish airspace approximately twice a year, the General Staff recalled in a Feb. 1 statement.
In line with the 2016 plans, a Russian An-30B aircraft will conduct a surveillance flight over Turkish territory on Feb. 1-5 and Turkish officials will also be on board during the flight, the General Staff said.
The flights take place within the framework of the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Having established a regime of unarmed observation flights over the territories of state parties, the treaty specifies inter alia quotas for observation flights, the notification of points of entry, technical details, and inspection for sensors.
Meanwhile, in accordance with provisions of the Vienna Document 2011 on Confidence and Security Building Measures (VDOC11), a four-member Russian team will fly to Istanbul on Feb. 2 and will conduct inspections in airspace under the command responsibility of the Aegean Army Command. While the Russian team is in Turkey, they will be accompanied by a four-member team from the Turkish General Staff, before departing from Istanbul on Feb. 5.
This will be the first observation flight by Russia over the territory of an Open Skies Treaty member in 2016. The latest observation flight by Russia over Turkish territory was conducted on Dec. 14-18, 2015, once again under the framework of the Open Skies Treaty, after being postponed in October on Ankara’s request amid a series of violations of Turkish airspace by Russian warplanes.
Russia and Turkey are both members of the OSCE and have adopted the Vienna Document, under which OSCE participating states agree to make their military facilities periodically available for evaluation by other participating states.
Relations between Ankara and Moscow are at their tensest since the end of the Cold War after the downing of a Russian warplane on Turkey’s border with Syria on Nov. 24 over airspace violations.