Turkish military denies knowing downed jet was Russian
TURKEY’S military said it did not know the warplane it shot down on the Syrian border was Russian, adding that it was ready for “all kinds of cooperation” after Moscow called the incident a “planned provocation”.
In a statement issued after tensions surged between Ankara and Moscow, the Turkish armed forces said they had made significant efforts to find and rescue the two pilots after shooting down the jet on Tuesday.
According to AFP, the sole surviving pilot said he had received no warning and the aircraft did not violate Turkish air space, prompting the Turkish army to release audio recordings it said showed the Russian jet was repeatedly warned to change course.
“This is Turkish Air Force speaking on guard. You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately,” a voice in one of the recordings can be heard saying in English, repeating the message several times.
The downing has threatened ties between two major rival players in the Syrian war and raised fears it could fuel wider geopolitical conflict, although both Ankara and Moscow have stressed they want to avoid military escalation.
Both are targeting Islamic State jihadists, but the countries are conflicted over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Turkey wants to depose while Russia remains one of his last allies.
The incident has also cast a shadow over talks between Putin and French President Francois Hollande, set for yesterday, as the two leaders struggled to build a broader coalition to fight IS militants.
Hollande has been on a diplomatic marathon after jihadists killed 130 people in Paris this month in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, but his efforts have been met with few concrete pledges so far.
In an apparent effort to prevent further escalation over the downing of the Russian jet, Turkey’s armed forces said they have invited Russian defence and military attaches to their headquarters to explain the circumstances.
“The nationality of the plane was not known… and the rules of engagement were automatically used” after it did not respond to warnings, it said in a statement, adding that it was ready for “all kinds of cooperation” with Russia’s armed forces.