Ankara has eased its military rules of engagement on the Syrian border to allow anti-DAESH coalition forces and NATO allies to carry out more patrol flights along its border with Syria, military sources confirmed on Wednesday.
The decision came after several NATO countries expressed their dissatisfaction with the strictness of the rules of engagement and stressed that they cannot perform enough patrol flights along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Ankara introduced the rules of engagement in 2012 just after Syrian forces shot down a Turkish jet. The aircraft was downed in international airspace without any warning, killing the two pilots, according to the General Staff. After this incident, Ankara changed the rules of engagement and declared that it would start to consider all "military elements" approaching from Syria an enemy threat and would act accordingly. Subsequently, Turkey shot down a Syrian Mi-17 helicopter in September 2013 and a MiG-23 warplane in March 2014.
Soon after Russia's airstrikes in Syria began in September 2015, two incursions by Russian aircraft into Turkish airspace occurred, one on Oct. 3 and another on Oct. 4. Each time, Turkish F-16 jets intercepted the Russian fighters forcing them to turn back. Russian officials apologized and pledged that it would not be repeated. Turkey had also renewed its warning concerning its rules of engagement, including military responses to violations of Turkish airspace. Lastly in November 2015, two Turkish F-16 fighter jets on an aerial patrol intercepted an unidentified warplane within the rules of engagement when it strayed into Turkish airspace from Syria. The intruding Russian aircraft was warned about the violation 10 times within five minutes before it was shot down. The incident caused the deterioration of Turkish-Russian relations.
Elserwhere, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will represent Turkey at a NATO summit which will be held in Poland on July 8-9. Apart from the official agenda of the summit, President Erdoğan is expected to raise Ankara's concerns at bilateral meetings regarding the Syrian crisis, which has led to instability in the region and created a huge wave of refugees. Erdoğan is also expected to express his frustration over the Syrian PKK-affiliate, the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG).