Correction: An earlier version of this article published at 9:02 a.m. ET included a photo AFP distributed that was wrongly presented by Ihlas News Agency as the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces, only to discover later that it had been taken at another time and location.
ANKARA, MOSCOW and WASHINGTON — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey "intervened" with interfered in a one of two Russian jets that violated over violation of the Turkish airspace according to and as part of Turkey’s rules of engagement.
"Despite all warnings, a fighter jet of unknown identity was intervened within the rules of engagement. The jet unfortunately insisted on its violation despite it had been warned 10ten times and our F-16s downed one of the jets as a result of the intervention," said the Turkish president.
Erdogan said: "Everyone should respect Turkey’s right to defend its own borders. Turkey sincerely supports opposition groups in Syria. … No one should doubt that Turkey put all efforts to avert today’s incident."
Two Turkish F-16 fighter aircraft "intervened" and shot down a Russian Su-24 jet Tuesday near Turkey’s Syrian borderThe Turkish military General Staff said the intervention came after the Russian jet violated Turkish airspace and was warned 10 times within five minutes. It said the Russian aircraft failed to heed the warnings.
Turkey said earlier it would intervene against any aircraft violating its airspace. as part of its rules of engagement.The Turkish military said the jet was of unknown nationality when the Turkish aircraft shot it down.
Local sources said the Russian jet crashed near the Syrian Latakia’s Yamadi village. They said the two pilots were seen landing after they parachuted out. A Turkish TV channel reported one of the pilots was killed and the other was captured by local Turkmen forces. A video posted online purports to show armed rebels gathered around a pilot's body on the ground. A voice is heard saying: "The 10th Division has captured a Russian pilot, God is greatest." It's unclear where this armed group's allegiance lies.
Turkey said it will consult with NATO and the United Nations on the developments at the border with Syria. Ankara said it will also brief ambassadors of the UN Security Council.
In Moscow, Russia's official response to the incident was muted throughout most of the day, with the Defense Ministry releasing a statement shortly after the incident denying that the Su-24 entered Turkish airspace, but confirming the aircraft was shot down.
Russia's initial version of events was that unspecified ground fire downed the aircraft, which was reported to have been flying at an altitude of 6,000 meters. They added that the pilots had ejected, but their fate was unclear. Russian state media reactions were likewise muted until President Vladimir Putin appeared on television Tuesday afternoon.
Seated next to Jordanian King Abdullah in Moscow, Putin slammed Turkey's downing of the Russian aircraft as "a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists."
"I cannot describe it in any other way," Putin said, "neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey." Putin asserted the jet never came closer than 1 kilometer from the Turkish border, and was en route to bomb Islamic State militants in Syria.
"Today's tragic event will have significant consequences, including for Russia-Turkey relations," he said, before going on to slam Istanbul for its handling of the situation — namely the calling of an extraordinary session of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels to inform allies of the incident.
"Instead of immediately getting in contact with us, as as we know, the Turkish side immediately turned to their partners from NATO to discuss this incident, as if we shot down their plane and not ours."
"Do they want to make NATO serve ISIS?" Putin asked. "We hope that the international community will find the strength to come together and fight against the common evil."
According to reports by Reuters, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman called the downing of a Russian Su-24 warplane in Syria a "very serious incident" but said it was too early to draw conclusions.
"It is just impossible to say something without having full information," Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told reporters.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Russia's envoy to Ankara after the incident.
The downing of the Russian jet came just a day ahead of a planned visit to Turkey by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
It was the first time a NATO member has downed a Russian or Soviet military aircraft since the 1950s.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, Aaron Stein, a fellow with the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said that Russian aircraft have violated Turkish airspace four times since the beginning of October.
Since 2012, Turkey has put into place very clear rules of engagement regarding its airspace and the Syrian conflict, Stein said, including the assumption that any jet approaching its border would be considered a threat and will be warned away, and if ignored, Ankara reserves the right to take action.
According to Turkey's letter to NATO following the incident, two Russian jets were warned on emergency channels 10 times in the five minutes leading up to the violation of Turkey's airspace. The jet's incursion, which occurred less than two miles into Turkey, lasted 17 seconds, the letter states.
"Turkey takes its red lines and its rules of engagement very seriously, and it took the previous Russian violations of its airspace very seriously," Stein said.
For the last week, Russia has engaged in an air campaign in the Turkmen Mountain area in Syria – close to the Turkish border –where Turkmen rebels are located, which has rankled Ankara, Stein said.
The concern is that any escalation of Tuesday's incident could involve NATO, of which Turkey is a member, he said.
At a joint news conference in Washington with French President Francois Hollande, US President Barack Obama said Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.
"I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations [in Syria], in the sense that they are operating very close to the Turkish border, and they are going after a moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries," Obama said. "If Russia is directing its energies toward Daesh and ISIL, some of those conflicts, or potentials for mistakes or escalation, are less likely to occur."
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USA Today's Jane Onyanga-Omara contributed to this report.
Burak Ege Bekdil is the Turkey correspondent for Defense News.