Russia has accused Turkey of breaching the Open Skies Treaty by refusing to allow Russian surveillance aircraft to fly close to the Turkish border over Syria.
“After the arrival of the Russian mission to Turkey and the announcement of the desired itinerary, the Turkish military officials refused to allow the inspection flight citing an order from the Turkish Foreign Ministry,” the head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, Sergey Ryzhkov, said in a statement.
Under the 2002 treaty, Turkey, Russia and 32 other signatories are obliged to allow unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of the treaty’s participants. Such flights are meant to gather information about military forces and activities of concern to the member states aimed at boosting mutual understanding and confidence.
The statement added that the Russian twin-engine An-30 surveillance aircraft, scheduled to conduct flights on February 1-5, was banned to enter Turkish airspace without any prior warning from Ankara after its itinerary was transmitted to the Turkish army. Turkish authorities, however, say they have never received the overfly request.
“The itinerary included the observation of areas adjacent to the Turkish border with Syria, as well as airfields that host NATO warplanes,” Ryzhkov further said, adding that the refusal would create “a dangerous precedent” because of a lack of control and observation over the military activities of a member state.
“We are not going to leave without proper attention and relevant reaction violations of the Open Skies Treaty on the part of the Turkish Republic,” the Russian official warned.
Tensions between Moscow and Ankara sharply escalated on November 24, 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter jet over Syria, claiming that it had entered Turkish airspace, an accusation strongly rejected by Moscow.
Of the two pilots aboard the warplane, one was rescued with the help of the Syrian army, but the other was killed by militants fighting the Syrian government.
Following the incident, Russia suspended all military deals with Turkey and imposed a number of economic sanctions on the country.