Despite tensions over the Turkish downing of a Russian warplane in November and the resulting diplomatic dispute following this incident, an agreement has been reached between the two states to allow a program of observation flights by Russian surveillance aircraft over Turkey this week.
Turkey’s military confirmed on Monday that Russia is due to conduct unarmed observation flights over Turkish territory starting on Monday, February 1st, through Friday February 5th.
The surveillance will be performed under the terms of the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies which facilitates flights by unarmed surveillance craft over foreign states according to a statement published on the Turkish General Staff’s website.
The statement mentioned that this is a routine procedure under the Open Skies treaty which Turkey signed in 1994. Turkey performs on average four surveillance flights over Russian territory every year, while Russian inspectors conduct two flights over Turkey. A team of Turkish specialists will be on board to monitor the flights.
According to an announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Saturday, Turkish airspace was violated by a Russian fighter jet, a SU-34 fighter-bomber, on Friday at midday despite repeated warnings by Turkish air radar units in Russian and English.
Due to Friday’s breach, the Turkish Air Force declared an ‘orange alert’ in key bases around the country, military sources revealed on Saturday.
The Open Skies program comes just a few months after the downing of a Russian fighter jet in late November when two Turkish F-16 fighter jets intercepted a Russian military plane within the rules of engagement when it entered into Turkish airspace on the Turkish-Syrian border.
After this incident Russia imposed a range of unilateral economic sanctions against Turkey, including a ban on food imports and cancellation of discounts in natural gas prices.