Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the Russian warplane was downed by Turkish Air Forces as a requirement of engagement rules to protect the sovereign territory of Turkey.
Erdogan said ‘’Everyone should respect the fact that Turkey has right to protect its borders.’’
‘’We are saddened by this matter and nobody should doubt that we did our best to avoid the incident’’ he added.
A Russian Sukhoi SU-24 fighter jet was shot down by Turkish jets early on Tuesday over making an airspace violation in the region of the Turkmen Mountain which is located in northwestern Syria near Turkish border.
Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) released the radar footages of the incident which indicated the downed warplane violated the Turkish airspace over the country’s Hatay province near its Syria border.
However, Russia denied the Russian plane entered Turkish airspace. “Our fighter jet was on a combat mission in northern Syria in highly dense cloudy conditions. When the aircraft was passing along the Turkish border, the onboard equipment set off an alarm indicating the plane was being targeted by some kind of air defense system,” Russia’s Commander-in-Chief Viktor Bondarev told Russian media.
Erdogan also reminded that the Russian jet entered Turkish airspace over the southern border province of Hatay despite being warned 10 times in five minutes before being downed.
Touching upon Syrian crisis, Erdogan said ‘’Everyone should realize that we cannot prevent refugee crisis or terrorism without providing a sustainable and fair solution to the conflict in Syria. We saw hopeful developments during Vienna talks; however, the regime leader Assad and his allied countries started to carry out attacks which were totally in contrast with agreements made in Vienna.’’
Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria since Sept. 30 in an effort to prop up the embattled regime of Bashar al Assad, claiming it's targeting the DAESH terrorist group.
However, Turkey and the US have raised concerns that the air strikes have been mainly targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime.
Among these moderate opposition groups include Turkmen brigades that are backed by Turkey in the Bayirbucak region of Syria’s coastal Latakia province, south of Turkey’s bordering Hatay province.
‘’We condemn the surging attacks on Bayirbucak region where our Turkmen brothers live and these innocent people are constantly bombarded by air strikes, also by ground forces. Therefore, they started to flee towards our Syrian border’’ the president said on Tuesday.
Erdogan claimed that the attacks on Bayirbucak actually targeted Turkmens instead of DAESH as there were no DAESH forces present in that region and said that these attacks only aimed to strengthen Assad regime.
The president also said ‘’Starting from Jarabulus to Mediterranean, Turkey is determined to clear the entire line from all terrorist organisations.’’
Erdogan added ‘’ We have been supporting our kinship in that region all along and we will continue to do so.’’
At least 5,000 Syrian Turkmen were forced to evacuate their villages and flee towards Turkish border on Friday night, following an intense three day aerial bombardment by Russia and a ground assault by forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.
The assault targeted at least 14 Turkmen villages, resulting in civilian casualties, according to various media accounts.