Russian inspectors will perform an observation flight over the territory of Turkey within the Open Skies Treaty, a senior Russian defense ministry official said, a local state newspaper reported Monday. The news comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Ankara, following the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey last month.
Sergey Ryzhkov, chief of the Russian defense ministry’s National Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, reportedly said that the operation will be performed through the week from Dec. 14 to Dec. 18 along an agreed route. Turkish specialists will be on board the plane and will control the use of surveillance equipment and observation of treaty provisions, Tass news agency reported.
“As part of implementation of the international Open Skies Treaty, a Russian group of inspectors plans to conduct a surveillance flight on board a Russian An-30B aircraft over the territory of the Turkish Republic,” Ryzhkov reportedly said, adding that the maximum range of the flight will be nearly 930 miles.
The Open Skies Treaty, which was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states, was formed to develop transparency, monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements, and expand capabilities to prevent crises in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations. The treaty entered into force in 2002 with surveillance flights being conducted over Russia, the United States, Canada and European countries.
Last month, Turkish Air Force’s F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber, saying that the jet violated the Turkish airspace on the border with Syria. However, Russia says that "there was no violation of Turkey’s airspace."
Following the incident, ties between Moscow and Ankara severely strained with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the country’s military will “immediately destroy” any targets threatening its presence in war-torn Syria.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Turkey said that its patience with Russia "has a limit" after Moscow's warships fired warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean Sea over the weekend, Reuters reported, citing an Italian newspaper.
"Ours was only a fishing boat; it seems to me that the reaction of the Russian naval ship was exaggerated," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview. "Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit.”
Cavusoglu reportedly said that Russia had already "put itself in a ridiculous position" by accusing Turkey that it shot down the Russian Su-24 jet to protect oil supplies from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. He also criticized Russia's military presence in Syria, saying that Moscow’s actions are aimed at keeping long-term Russian ally Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, and not combating ISIS.