Turkish PM says country had right to down plane
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has defended Turkey's shooting down of a Russian fighter jet at the border with Syria, saying Turkey has the right "to take all kinds of measures" against border violations according to international laws.
Davutoglu said Tuesday Turkey will not hesitate to take all steps to protect the country's security, calling it Turkey's "national duty." He stressed that the action did not amount to an aggression against any foreign territory.
Davutoglu also called on the international community to work toward "extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria."
Turkey said it shot down the Russian plane after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings.
The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the plane was a Russian Su-24 fighter jet, with the army saying that the plane had violated Turkish airspace 10 times within a five minute period and was shot down by two Turkish F-16s.
However Russia insisted that the plane was inside Syrian airspace.
Opposition activists in the Latakia countryside told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the downed plane was a Russian jet that had crossed the Turkish border during a sortie over Jabal al-Zahia in the border region.
"The plane entered Turkish airspace on its way to conduct bombardment in the areas of fighting in Burj al-Zahia, before being shot down by a missile fired by a Turkish fighter jet," said Ahmad Haj Bakri, a media activist in the Turkmen Mountain area.
Bakri said the plane crashed in the village of Atira, pointing out the pilots were able to parachute down.
NATO has called an emergency meeting over the incident, the first of its kind since Russia launched airstrikes in Syria in September, to the consternation of the West.
The presence of military aircraft from Russia, the United States, France, Turkey and a clutch of Gulf states in Syrian skies had long raised fears of an incident that could quickly escalate into a major diplomatic and military crisis.
|Read more on the Russia-Turkey crisis over Syria|
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'Stab in the back'
With a major diplomatic crisis looming between two states on opposing sides in the Syria conflict, Russia angrily insisted its jet never had entered Turkish airspace.
The shooting down of the plane was "a stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists," Putin said at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Moscow.
Putin said the plane fell in Syrian territory four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the border with Turkey and "did not in any way threaten Turkey".
"Today's tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations," he warned.
Russia summoned the Turkish military attache in Moscow while Ankara summoned Moscow's charge d'affaires to the foreign ministry.
"Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Russian pilot killed by rebels, second missing
A major rescue operation was launched to bring back the two Russian pilots.
However, Syrian rebel officials claim to have photos and video showing that one of two Russian pilots has died and the second is missing after they both parachuted.
A Russian helicopter was also hit and damaged by rebel fire in the same area of northern Syria, a monitoring group said, but it was able to land in government-held territory.
The sources told various news agencies that the first pilot was killed by opposition forces who shot at him as he landed after ejecting from the plane.
Several videos circulating online and shared on opposition social media sites purported to show the dead pilot surrounded by rebels from different factions.
Fadi Ahmed, a spokesman for the First Coastal Front rebel group, said "the Russian pilot was killed by gunfire as he fell with his parachute" in the Jabal Turkman area of Latakia province on the coast.
"The 10th Brigade (rebel group) transferred the body of the dead Russian to the local rebel joint operations room," added Omar Jablawi, a media activist working with rebels in the area.
He declined to specify exactly where the joint operations room was located.
The sources said rebels were still searching for the second Russian pilot of the Su-24 aircraft.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian helicopters were combing the area between Jabal Turkman and government-held Kassab on the Turkish border searching for the second Russian.
"One Russian helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in an area controlled by the regime in northeastern Latakia after being fired on by rebels," the monitoring group's chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
Online, opposition and rebel accounts on Twitter and Facebook circulated several videos depicting from several angles the man said to be the dead Russian pilot.
In them, a man can been seen in military uniform with straps across his chest and blood on his face.
Rebels refer to the man as a "Russian pilot" and "Russian pig", but the location of the footage was not specified and it was impossible to verify the videos.