Syrian forces firing at a Turkish aircraft dispatched on a search and rescue (SAR) mission on Monday may have violated a bilateral agreement signed between Turkey and Syria.
Under the provisions of the 2008 Coordinating Search and Rescue Services Agreement, Turkey has the right to claim that Syria violated the agreement by deliberately firing at the second Turkish plane.
The agreement emphasizes that both states should take appropriate measures to facilitate the entry of SAR units into each other’s search and rescue regions (SRR) and the reciprocal use of facilities in SRRs while engaging in SAR missions.
By firing at a Turkish aircraft the Syrian regime has effectively hindered the conduct of a search and rescue mission, violating Article 3 of the agreement.
Shortly after an F-4 reconnaissance jet was shot down by Syria last week, four helicopters and two ships were dispatched on an initial search operation, followed by a military turboprop transport aircraft.
Turkey said on Monday that Syrian forces had fired towards a Turkish military transport plane involved in a search for the F-4 jet but that the second aircraft was not brought down.
According to the agreement, which was signed between two countries on Oct.14, 2008 in Ankara and approved by the Turkish Parliament on Nov. 3, 2010, along with Law No. 6044, both states should take urgent measures to provide the most appropriate assistance to each other in the event of SAR operations.
However, Syria’s account of Monday’s incident seems likely to violate the agreement signed between the two neighbors and is liable to inflame tensions in Turkey, already running high due to the shooting down of a Turkish jet last week by Syrian forces.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the second plane, which had gone to look for the Turkish pilots from the first aircraft, was fired on by Syrian forces, which he described as a short period of harassing fire.
Under the provisions of the agreement, both states through their respective rescue coordination centers should promptly and regularly exchange SAR information concerning any actual or potential distress situation and assist each other to the extent possible in conducting SAR missions in their respective SRRs and across common SRR boundaries.
A Foreign Ministry official has said the plane returned to Turkish airspace immediately after being fired on and that the SAR operation resumed following communications “through military and diplomatic channels,” adding that there were no injuries to anyone aboard the transport aircraft.
Arınç also stated for the first time that Syrian forces had opened fire on a Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) SAR plane.
According to Article 3 of the agreement, both states, upon receiving information about a maritime or aeronautical incident where any person is in distress within its SRR, should take urgent measures to provide the most appropriate assistance, regardless of the nationality or status of persons involved or the circumstances of the incident. Additionally, one state should advise the other of the operational periods or hours of its Rescue Coordination Center.