Turkey has denied a Russian Open Skies observation flight over its territory because it was near the Syrian border

Feb 10 2016 - 13 Comments

Another episode that further escalates the crisis between Turkey and Russia.

Turkey has barred a Russian Antonov An-30B spyplane, that was supposed to operate out of Eskisehir airfield, Turkey, on Feb. 1 to 5, from performing an Open Skies Treaty flight over its territory.

As told to Tass.ru by Sergey Ryzhkov, chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s department for control of implementation of treaties, the Turkish military refused to allow the flight to take place after the flight route was discovered to include observation areas adjacent to the Syrian border and airfields where NATO aircraft are concentrated.

Ryzhkov added that, in this way “A dangerous precedent was created of an uncotrolled military activity of an Open Skies Treaty member state. We are not going to leave without proper attention and relevant reaction violations of the Open Skies Treaty on the part of the Turkish republic.”

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and has 34 member states.

Its key tasks are to monitor the fulfillment of armament control agreements and expand capabilities to prevent crises in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations. Surveillance flights are conducted over Russia, United States, Canada and European countries.

Noteworthy Turkey has halted Russian Open Skies flight few days after a RuAF Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback bomber allegedly violated Ankara’s airspace while performing a mission from Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in northwestern Syria.

An-30B Spyplane

File photo showing a Russian Open Skies An-30 escorted by two Danish F-16s (credit: OSCE). Top image credit: OSCE.


  • Steffan Watkins

    Under the terms of the treaty any signatory country has the right to request a flight plan that is within 10km of the border of another nation, and over-fly air bases. So, neither reason given is a valid reason to deny the mission. We should be asking what is the *real* reason the Turks refused the overflight, and will they disclose the exact flight plan tabled by the Russians for the mission? By refusing the mission, for reasons that don’t make sense, Turkey is in contravention of the treaty, which makes us all less safe. Of note, Russia allowed 32 flights by Western nations over Russia, including the border area around Ukraine, last year. Turkey also allowed an Open Skies Treaty flight in December *after* they shot down the Russian bomber; making this refusal even more strange.

    • sarp

      Dear Steffan have you ever read the treaty conditions? Turks or any other contributing nation didnt fly over disputed Ukrainian border, do you know why, because the territory is uncontrolled and anything may happen! Like the Syrian border! How ignorant and biased point of view is that? Do you know what is stranger than Turkish refusal, Russian provokation over such kinda issue.

      • Steffan Watkins

        Actually I have read the treaty, and there were flights by signatory states near the border of Ukraine in the past year, and those pictures are available to all signatory states including Turkey (they share imagery among all nations no matter who took them). The treaty allows for flights over all borders up to 10km from the next nation, even contested ones. There is no reason for Turkey to deny Russia’s request to fly over Turkish airspace as part of the treaty. It’s literally why there is an Open Skies Treaty; to allow such overflights to dispel any claims there are hostile forces massing at the border, or at Turkish airfields.

  • Steffan Watkins

    They’re not asking for a tourist trip to Turkey or something frivolous; this is a request being made under a treaty based on mutual trust/distrust, that many nations are signatory to, and makes us all safer, because the other signatory nations use it ‘against’ Russia – routinely. It is the same treaty that’s been used to force Russia to allow other signatory nations to fly over the border of Ukraine. Turkey can’t just say “nah, we don’t feel like it” – that’s why there’s a Treaty, mandating that all nations signatory to the Treaty be allowed to overfly each others territory. Of course the Russians are playing it up in the media and using it for propaganda, but that’s the name of the game in international (and national) politics. Turkey has no reason to deny the overflight under the framework of the Open Skies Treaty; furthermore the reasons they gave don’t make any sense.

  • oxi

    Turkey = NATO = U.S. should be held accountable for violating International law!

  • oxi

    You obviously do not understand the Treaty Turkey and NATO signed with Russia. The provocation is Turkey denying what is law! Turkey is the problem here with their support to ISIS terrorists they are trying to hide the truth…

  • TheOX

    Russians are blindly following their new czar into a hole worse than Afghanistan. I hope when its over you can still have pride left to call yourself Russian.

  • OR

    nope you are wrong Russia did it for a reason and quite tangible one – Turks downed Su-24 that was not threatennig Turkey in any way.. one pilot was killed in a very cruel way.. by someone who walks freely on the Turkish land.. Turkey is trading ISIS oil – fact, Turkey invaded Iraq – fact.. you either ignoring the facts you pushing some of your own propaganda here

  • sarp

    The reason behind the refusal of the flight was the Russians “nonsense” flight route over the border. Some of the comments are just so stupid and ignorant that they still believe Russia is an Angel without wings… The open skies regime covers the territory over which the State Party exercises sovereignty, including land, islands, and internal and territorial waters. The treaty specifies that the entire territory of a State Party is open to observation. Observation flights may only be restricted for reasons of flight safety; not for reasons of national security. FLIGHT SAFETY , Can you read? Along the border there are lots of uncontrolled armed groups who are against Assad and his fellow comrade Angel Russians! They may shoot down that slow flying Antonov with “a piece of rock” as they did before (remember the Russian rescue helicopter incident). And What will happen after such kinda incident is obvious, Russians blame Turkey again. We don’t have to defend your spyplane dumbass, we are saving the lives of your crew! Blind and dumb russian friends, why do you want to fly over a very dangerous and uncontrolled area? What is your main purpose, provoking? Due to flight safety reasons and to not to put your flight crew at risk we refused. Oh by the way, the flight route that russians proposed was over PKK and PYD camps, one of the other reason for such kinda flight route choice was to stop Turkish Air Forces bombing terrorists’ camps. Try to see objectively, but i doubt your brains are smaller than your eyes…

    • Steffan Watkins

      What you are referring to is “hazardous airspace” and is taken into account in the Treaty. Requesting an overflight of “hazardous airspace” is allowed under the treaty per Section II Item 2 (cited below). Flying up to 10Km away from the border is also allowed. My point is, the reasons that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has cited for denying the Russian overflight are not in line with anything in the Treaty or the spirit of the treaty. The Open Skies Treaty is specifically in place to allow overflights of contested lands where one of the signatory states believes something is being staged or violations of other agreements/treaties are taking place.


      2. The mission plan may provide for an observation flight that allows for the observation of any point on the entire territory of the observed Party, including areas designated by the observed Party as hazardous airspace in the source specified in Annex I. The flight path of an observation aircraft shall not be closer than, but shall be allowed up to, ten kilometres from the border with an adjacent State that is not a State Party.


      The US Air Force Field Manual on Open Skies operations very clearly states the only reason to deny an Open Skies flight plan or mission plan is because of something that you cannot hide and do not want to be photographed is in the field, something so important that you’ll even break an international treaty to protect it. The US Military doesn’t take breaking the treaty lightly, and nor would Turkey – so something big is going on along the border, or at the airbases in use by coalition forces, that they didn’t want the Russians (and other parties) to see.

      Air Force Manual 16-604 – Oct 2009
      Implementation Of, And Compliance With, The Treaty on Open Skies

  • sarp

    Hey su34 why don’t you speak about the civilians that you bombed in Aleppo, why don’t you ever talking about the big wave of refugees which consist of 600.000 people fleeing away the territory, have you ever dropped anything other than bombs to that area, like humanitarian aid? No! Never! Invasion of syria? Ahahhahhahaa How many soldiers do you have in Syria? How many tanks, missiles, jets? You already invaded syria with a small army dumbass. What are you doing in syria helping syrians? No! You are just trying to protect your only exit to warm water, you are just trying to protect Assad who is killing his on people… Big bad russkies or weak dumb husskies, i think the second one…

    • Bez

      Hey Sarp, why don’t you mention the civilians that Turkey and its Islamist proxies like IS killed in Syria, Iraq and Turkey? What about the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq?

  • Jan Schmidt

    next red line: complete victory in syria by assad and russia. this will send the islamists in super crazy mode – and some of NATO too