News / Middle East

    Obama, Turkey's Erdogan Confer on Downing of Russian Warplane

    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.
    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015.
    VOA News

    Hours after the Turkish shootdown of a Russian warplane along the Syria-Turkey border, U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on the need to de-escalate tensions and prevent further incidents.

    The White House, in a statement late Tuesday, said the two leaders conferred by phone and voiced their commitment to developing a transitional political process for peace in Syria and international support for defeating Islamic State extremists. The statement also reiterated U.S. support for Turkey's right to defend its airspace.

    Earlier Tuesday, Obama, speaking in Washington, cited the downing of the Russian plane as evidence of an "ongoing problem" with Russia's military operations in Syria.

    Speaking alongside French President Francois Hollande at the White House, Obama said U.S. authorities were still collecting details of the shootdown, while noting that Russian military aircraft have been targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups very close to Turkey's borders.

    He urged the two sides to "take measures to discourage any kind of escalation" and said the incident showed a need to move quickly toward a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian conflict.

    Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government insists the Russian jet never entered Turkish airspace, accused Ankara of "stabbing" Russia "in the back" with the shootdown, equating the Turkish action to supporting terrorism.

    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.
    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows a Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.

    Turkey said the plane was shot down after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored 10 warnings to leave in a span of five minutes. Erdogan said his country made its "best efforts" to avoid such an incident, while insisting "everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders."

    A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that Turkish pilots issued repeated warnings to the Russian plane and didn't get a response.

    Putin acknowledged the Russian jet was shot down by a Turkish F-16, after Russian officials had earlier said "firing from the ground" was responsible for downing the plane. But he said the fighter was over Syrian territory 1 kilometer away from the Turkish border when it was hit, and that it never threatened Turkey.

    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV shows two parachutes after a Russian warplane crashed on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.
    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV shows two parachutes after a Russian warplane crashed on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.

    "This event goes beyond the framework of the regular fight against terrorism," Putin said at a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

    "Of course, our servicemen are waging a heroic fight against terror — not sparing themselves, sacrificing their own lives. But today's loss is connected to a stab in the back by accomplices of the terrorists. There is no other way to characterize what happened today," he said.

    Putin also said Russia had long noted "a large amount of oil and oil products" entering Turkey from Islamic State-held territory in Syria, providing the terrorist group with a "large money supply."

    'Tragic event'

    He added, "Today's tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations."

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had canceled a planned visit to Turkey and said his ministry was recommending that Russians not travel to Turkey “for tourism or any other purposes.”

    NATO held an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the incident. Afterward, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation group supported the territorial integrity of Turkey, calling the member country "our NATO ally."

    Video released by Turkey showed what appeared to be two pilots parachuting from the doomed jet. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria, said the plane went down in the Turkmen Mountains in Latakia province. Pro-government forces have been fighting in that region and the Islamic State group is not known to be present there.

    The Interfax news agency Tuesday evening quoted a spokesman for the Russian armed forces’ general staff, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, as saying that one of the two pilots of the Su-24 was apparently killed by ground fire after ejecting from the plane.

    The military spokesman also said that a Russian marine was killed when an Mi-8 helicopter sent to rescue the downed pilots came under fire from rebel-controlled territory.

    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows smoke from a Russian warplane after crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.
    This frame grab from video by Haberturk TV, shows smoke from a Russian warplane after crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2015.

     

    Turkish officials have issued multiple warnings about aircraft violating its airspace during Syria's 4½-year civil war. Its forces shot down a Syrian helicopter in 2013 and last month took down an unidentified drone that crossed into its airspace.

    Turkey has also complained about at least two instances of Russian jets flying in its airspace.

    'Irresponsible behavior'

    NATO protested those incursions, and in October noted what it called the "extreme danger of irresponsible behavior."  

    After the earlier Russian incursions into Turkey, the United States deployed six F-15 jets from Britain to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base to help the NATO ally secure its skies.

    Russia began its military campaign in Syria in late September. In October, it reached an agreement with the United States, which is leading a coalition of countries bombing militants in Syria, to keep a safe distance and communicate in order to prevent midair disasters.

    VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb and National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin in Washington, Daniel Schearf in Moscow and Dorian Jones in Istanbul contributed to this report.

    Watch YouTube video of crash from Turkey's state-run Anadolu Ajansi:

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    by: Marina from: Russia
    November 25, 2015 11:37 AM
    I ve noticed smth peculiar in the Turkish video of falling down warplane. The constant clicking of many professional cameras... and voices of men behind the scene sound quite cold-blooded like war correspondents. Looks like well-staged performance of Turkish military who invited correspondents beforehand and were laying in ambush for Russian warplane to overstep the boundary.

    by: Anonymous from: USA
    November 25, 2015 10:04 AM
    The US Government makes me want to puke when it stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Erdogan who support intolerant religious extremists, and says it wants to bring "democracy" to the Syrian people. HILARIOUS and SICK at the same time.

    by: Gerald O'Hare
    November 25, 2015 8:38 AM
    Putin is wrong for violating Turkish airspace. Russia has been warned over and over again but they only understand the language of violence. Russia is far too weak to fight Turkey because they are bogged down in Ukraine and overextended in Syria. This is all Putin's fault for not respecting borders and airspace.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 9:50 AM
    Gerald, I chuckled when I read your comment. Airspace violations over Syria and Iraq are constant by Turkey who has no respect when violating other countries airspace. It is well within the right of Syria to shoot down the Turkish jets violating its airspace. But I see that you have a thing for Putin so your support for this overly aggressive reaction from the Turks is warranted in your opinion.

    by: nexer
    November 25, 2015 7:33 AM
    Obama is right by saying turkey have the right to protect themselves but then both Turk and Russia ought sit down and dialogue to know what actually happened and avoid escalating issues.

    by: Motone Holi from: Japan
    November 25, 2015 5:58 AM
    Can you send my message? *President of Tukey,Erdogan,You are like as monster parent fool,why can not you control your servants?,because your most servants aren't faithful and not wise,so then your servants and you are wicked and say to yourself ,"My God is staying away a long time ,"and you then begin to beat fellow friends-force ,God will come on a day,God will cut you and your servants to pieces and assign your servants a place with any terrorists ,where there will be weeping.* Send to Erdogan that is president of Turkey+++Are you OK?

    by: Emidio Borg from: Bucharest
    November 25, 2015 5:08 AM
    Russia has just announced it is bringing S400 anti aircraft systems into Lattakia with instructions to shoot down any threats to Russian aviation and decision making given to the system commander.
    There's your Syrian no fly zone right there.

    by: gino from: italy
    November 25, 2015 3:31 AM
    Erdogan is provoking the Russians because he hope that nato will help him (yes Obama and nato are not very smart).Turkey has important business over there (also with isis).Russia is the only country doing the right thing and I hope will not fall into this trap.

    by: Mohinder
    November 25, 2015 3:15 AM
    If Turkey air force issued 10 warning over 5 minutes, and the distance was 3km of Turkey air space, as shown in news coverage, does that mean the Russion plane was traveling at 36 km an hour, someone is not telling the truth. Russia is in the right.
    In Response

    by: Mehmet Aslan from: Turkey
    November 25, 2015 9:34 AM
    Have your brains Mr! Turkish pilots have warned Russian pilots 10 times from a large distance as they were nearing towards Turkeys airspace. They wouldnt answer and its like they wanted this end on purposely for some reasons.

    by: Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 3:03 AM
    That is a message to Russia to respect others airspace. If Putin is using his military to take out legitimate FSA as well as civilians in the conflict rest assured the International Criminal Court will investigate. Unlike assad, Putin is capable of committing war crimes, punishable by the International Criminal Court. Has Putin apologized for any loss of life to Syrian civilians? I bet Syrians can not stand Russia destroying their country now. The world is there for the Syrian people, majority of which want assad permanently gone.

    by: Darryl Stock from: United Kingdom
    November 25, 2015 1:58 AM
    on the assumption that Turkey has a right to defend its borders does that mean Greece has a right to sink all the boats coming out of Turkey during he summer?
    In Response

    by: Mathias Özdemir from: Turkey
    November 26, 2015 5:51 PM
    Boats filled with civilians(Syrian Refugees probably) vs. Russian Military Aircraft... Very sensible(!) comparison...
    Comments page of 7
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