Russia says violation of Turkish airspace was ‘navigation error’

Russia says violation of Turkish airspace was ‘navigation error’

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Russia says violation of Turkish airspace was ‘navigation error’

AP photo

Russia has informed Turkey that the violation of Turkish airspace near the Syrian border on Oct. 3 was due to a “navigation error,” according to Russian sources. 

Turkish military sources said a Russian SU-30 breached Turkish airspace for hundreds of meters in the southern district of Yayladağı in Hatay province for two minutes at 12:10 p.m., but returned to Syrian airspace after one warning.

The Russian authorities informed the Turkish military attaché in Moscow about the error, Russian Embassy officials in Ankara told Hürriyet Daily News. 

“The Russian aircraft exited Turkish airspace into Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force, which were conducting patrols in the region,” a written statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Oct. 5.

The Turkish air forces initially worked to understand if the aircraft was Russian SU-29 or SU-24, which are also included in the Syrian air forces, until they determined that the plane was SU-30 model used only by Russia, sources said.  

The ministry summoned Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov and strongly protested the violation, read the Foreign Ministry statement.

It told Karlov that any such violation must not be repeated and if it was then Russia would be responsible for any undesired incident.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned that Ankara would activate military rules of engagement irrespective of who violates its air space.

"Our rules of engagement are clear whoever violates our air space," Davutoğlu told HaberTürk television after the incident.

"The Turkish Armed Forces are clearly instructed. Even it is a flying bird it will be intercepted," he added.

Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu has called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to lodge a protest.

Sinirlioğlu also spoke on the phone with his U.S., French, Italian and British counterparts to evaluate the situation. He also plans to consult NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the German foreign minister.

The NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will meet Sinirlioğlu on Oct. 5. 

U.S. media first reported on Oct. 4 that a Russian warplane on a bombing run in Syria had flown within five miles of the Turkish border.

A Turkish security official reportedly said Turkish radar locked onto the Russian aircraft as it was bombing early Oct. 2 in al-Yamdiyyah, a Syrian village directly on the border. He said Turkish fighter jets would have attacked if it had crossed into Turkish airspace.

A U.S. military official suggested that the incident had come close to sparking an armed confrontation. Reading from a report, he said the Russian aircraft had violated Turkish air space by five miles and that Turkish jets had been scrambled, but the Russian aircraft had returned to Syrian airspace before Turkey could respond.