Russian and Turkish relations have come under strain following the November 24th shoot down of a Russian Su-24M bomber aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border that led to finger pointing and Russian President Vladimir Putin warning of serious consequences for Turkey, a Nato member country.
According to Turkey, the Russian aircraft was fired upon in Turkish airspace on November 24th since it violated the border by 1.36 miles (2.19 kilometers) for about 17 seconds once it was warned to change course 10 ten times over the span of five minutes.
Russia’s Defense Ministry maintains the aircraft never left Syrian airspace and should have never been fired upon by a Turkish air force plane.
The shoot down marks the first destruction of a Russian or Soviet Air Forces aircraft by a Nato member since the 1950’s and highlights the latest flashpoint over the conflict in Syria that has led to hundred of thousands of deaths and 4,289, 792 registered Syrian refugees, according to UNHC, a UN inter-agency sharing portal updated on November 17th.
Despite colder weather in recent weeks, the number of Syrians arriving in Europe searching for protection continues to increase but is lower compared to the numbers of Syrians in neighboring countries.
Based on data from UNHC, there were 681,713 official Syrian asylum applications in Europe from April 2011 and October 2015.
The EU’s controversial planned quota plan that spreads out 120,000 asylum seekers across EU states has led to some questions about Europe’s open border policy and has caused divisions among EU member nations.
Slovakia has plans to file a lawsuit against the EU’s planned quota plan before December 18th and a host of other EU countries remain opposed to the quota system that has received strong support from Germany, the largest recipient of Syrian refugees.
Following the shoot down of Russian Su-24M bomber on November 24th, Moscow decided to upgrade their air defenses at the Khmeimim airbase south of the Syrian port in Latakia with the deployment of longer range S-400 missiles to Syria that are capable of engaging air targets as far as 248 miles (400 kilometers) and cover roughly 75 percent of Syrian territory.
On Thursday November 26th Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a visiting French President Francois Hollande in Moscow and discussed the recent shoot down incident along the Syrian-Turkish border.
Putin called the shoot down a “treacherous blow” during his press statement but later emphasized that their enhancedS-400 air defense system is not in any way directed against Russia’s partners, with whom they are fighting terrorists in Syria and said Russia will continue to work within the framework of the International Syria Support Group that aims to promote the fulfilment of all agreements reached within this group.
“Today, we agreed to step up our joint efforts on the anti-terrorist track, to improve the exchange of operational information in the fight against terrorism and establish constructive work between our military experts in order to avoid overlapping incidents and to focus our efforts on ensuring that our work in fighting terror is more effective, avoiding any strikes against territories and armed forces that are themselves fighting terrorists” Putin said.
French President Francois Hollande told reporters that the shoot down incident was a “serious incident” that is regrettable.
“It is absolutely clear that it is necessary to avoid any risk and any possible repetition of this sort of thing at this time and place. It is critical that we refrain from escalating the situation” Hollande said.
“The only goal that we should all set for ourselves is the fight against ISIS and the elimination of the terrorists. We have no other goals” Hollande continued.
Hollande explained that closer coordination is needed between their two countries and said that he’s taken initiatives aimed at stepping up joint efforts and cooperation.