UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed alarm at the downing of the Russian plane along the Turkish-Syrian border and voiced hope that all countries involved in air campaigns in Syria would take steps to avoid such incidents in the future.
Speaking on behalf of Ban Ki-moon, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told the Press that the Secretary-General “urges all relevant parties to take urgent measures with a view to de-escalate the tensions and he hopes that a credible and thorough review will clarify the events and help prevent future recurrences.”
The shoot down of the Russian jet Sukhoi Su-24 at the Syria-Turkey border by the Turkish military on Tuesday has left one pilot dead, and as per the latest reports the second pilot managed to escape and “was picked up by the Syrian army”, Russia’s ambassador said on Wednesday.
Turkey claims that the plane had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia however denied that the plane crossed Syrian border into Turkish skies.
Worrying over the developments in the West Asian region, the UN chief underscored the importance of international unity and cooperation in “international action against violent extremists in the region”, as well as the “urgent need to agree to a solution to the tragic events in Syria.”
The President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan had reported that the downing of the Russian jet was an incident Ankara made every effort to avoid but it stands by Turkey’s right to defend its borders.
“We are feeling distressed for encountering such an incident. But the actions were fully in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement that have been declared before. Turkey does not harbour enmity towards its neighbours” said Erdogan.
Stating that nobody should doubt that Turkey made best efforts to avoid the incident, the latter’s President said “the reason worse incidents have not taken place in the past regarding Syria is the cool-headedness of Turkey”.
NATO has come out in support of its military ally Turkey after an emergency meeting of all 28 members requested by Ankara.
“As we have repeatedly made clear, we stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said later on Tuesday.
Notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane had been attacked when it was one km (0.62 mile) inside Syria and warned of “serious consequences” for what he termed a stab in the back administered by “the accomplices of terrorists”.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the 15-member council and Ban, Turkey’s UN Ambassador Halit Cevik said two unidentified planes approached Turkish airspace on Tuesday morning and were warned 10 times in five minutes to change direction. Cevik said both planes then flew more than a mile into Turkey for 17 seconds.
The Turkish ambassador also informed that he had written to the Security Council on six different occasions, dating to 2012, regarding violations of Turkey’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. In the letter was also written that “Turkey will not hesitate to exercise its rights emanating from international law to protect the security of its citizens and borders in compliance with the established rules and regulations.”
On the other hand, speaking at the White House conference room post the shoot out on Tuesday, the US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande also called on Russia and Turkey to take steps to discourage escalation.
Hollande echoed Obama’s sentiments that “the event that took place is a serious one, and we can only regret it. But we must prevent an escalation. That would be extremely damaging”.
The President of France, who announced plans to redouble American-French efforts against Islamic State, said each country involved in the region should be united.
(With inputs from agencies)