A Syrian warplane violated Turkey’s airspace and was shot down by F-16 pilots, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
Speaking at a local election rally in Kocaeli, near Istanbul on Sunday, the Turkish leader told ruling AK Party supporters: “If you violate our airspace, then our response will be strong; you need to suffer the consequences.”
Erdogan congratulated the Turkish Chief of Staff as well as the “honorable” pilots of the Turkish Armed Forces who brought down the plane.
Two Syrian MIG-23 fighter aircrafts approached Turkey’s airspace along the Turkish-Syrian border around 1pm on Sunday, according to a press release from the office of Turkish Chief of Staff.
“One of the planes diverted its course after four warnings; however, the other plane violated Turkey’s airspace at 1:13 pm by about a kilometer, and headed west and continued to fly in Turkish airspace for about one and a half kilometer,” it said.
“One of the two F-16 pilots, who were on air patrol at the time, fired a missile at the Syrian aircraft at 1:14 pm in accordance with the engagement rules. The plane went down near the Syrian town of Kasab, about 1,200 meters south of the border,” the press release concluded.
President Abdullah Gul underlined that Turkey had demonstrated its resolution and determination to protect its borders.
“Turkey acted in accordance with international law, and retaliated against a breach of its sovereignty,” Turkish parliament speaker, Cemil Cicek, said.
The pilot of the downed aircraft reportedly survived the incident, having jumped out with a parachute.