Russia, Turkey Reach a 'Gentleman's Agreement' on Syrian Airspace
Turkey and Russia are currently in talks over a protocol to coordinate combat flights in the Syrian airspace to prevent incidents, a Turkish military source told Hurriyet Daily News.
While working on a draft protocol, both sides reached a "gentleman's agreement," the source said. According to the agreement, one side must not enter the area where the other side is conducting combat operations.
The decision to coordinate combat flights over Syria was made on September 15 at a meeting in Ankara between Russian Military Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.
This was the first visit by a Russian high-profile military commander to Turkey after a Turkish jet shot down a Russian bomber over Syria in November 2015. After the incident, contacts between the Russian and Turkish militaries were suspended.
During the meeting, Moscow and Ankara agreed to establish a direct hot line as well as communication channels between the Russian and Turkish air forces to prevent incidents.
"Work to accomplish the protocol continues at the highest level," a Turkish army source told the newspaper. If signed, the protocol will be an important step in building cooperation between Turkey and Russia on the Syrian battlefield.
According to the source, the Turkish military has provided Russia with the coordinates of the areas where it is operating. In return, Russian warplanes will not enter those areas.
"Our communication with Russia functions perfectly," the source said.
The source also noted that Russia is acting very carefully to avoid violations of Turkish airspace and regularly provides information about its flights in nearby areas.
The need to reach a protocol coordinating combat flights became urgent after the Turkish military launched the Euphrates Shield military operation in Syria on August 24.
Then, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported that the Russian Defense Ministry had requested information on Turkey's military campaign in Syria in order to prevent aerial incidents.
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