Syrian army says it will 'bring down' any Turkish war planes in its airspace
BEIRUT - ReutersThe Syrian military said on Oct. 20 that it would bring down any Turkish war planes entering Syrian air space, a response to air strikes carried out by Turkey overnight in northern Syria.
"Any attempt to once again breach Syrian airspace by Turkish war planes will be dealt with and they will be brought down by all means available," the Syrian army general command said in a statement.
Turkish air strikes hit a group of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), the military wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), fighters allied to U.S.-backed militia late on Oct. 18, which the Syrian statement called an act of "blatant aggression".
Northern Syria is an increasingly complex battlefield and the Oct. 18 air strikes highlighted the conflicting agendas of NATO members Turkey and the United States.
Turkey supports Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and is also trying to push Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) away from Syria's Turkish border.
At the same time, the United States has backed PYD-led forces in their own fight against ISIL, infuriating Ankara, which sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants.
Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet on Nov. 24, 2015, along its border with Syria on the grounds of an airspace violation. The jet crisis caused relations between Turkey and Russia, one of the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to deteriorate, with Russia imposing an economic embargo on Turkish goods and a travel ban to Turkey.
Relations began to return to normal after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan penned a letter in June to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, after which the two leaders met three times.
Russia began conducting air strikes in Syria last September and has been one of the main supporters of the government alongside Iran.