The shooting down of a Russian plane by a Turkish missile near the Turkish border yesterday has triggered a delicate situation in the region as it waits for the Russian response to the operation which came after a series of warnings from Turkey about airspace violations.
The seriousness of the incident stems from the fact that this is the first time that there has been direct conflict between a NATO member state and Russia since the establishment of the Alliance and may open the door to confrontation. The Russian President Vladimir Putin described the shooting down of the plane as a “stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists” and vowed that there would be “serious consequences” on the relationship between the two countries.
The Russian Armed Forces announced that all military communication with Ankara will be cut off, and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov cancelled his visit to Turkey which was scheduled for today. He called upon Russian citizens to refrain from travelling to Turkey due to the “existence of terrorist threats which are no less than those in Egypt.”
Official Turkish sources told “Asharq Al-Awsat” that the Russian flight crew refused to respond to the warnings it issued and also that it refused to identify itself, and therefore the plane was treated as a hostile target. The sources added that the use of force was a last resort.
Turkey communicated with its allies immediately after the place was shot down, and invited NATO to an emergency meeting which concluded that the Alliance stands “in solidarity with Turkey” and is watching developments. However, it also called for calm, communication between Moscow and Ankara and avoiding escalation.
As international calls for restraint intensified, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish troops will respond to all direct violations threatening the Turkish border. Erdogan also stated at the end of his statement that the establishment of safe areas stretching from Jarabulus in Aleppo to the Mediterranean Sea will soon take place.