Russia has called for an extraordinary meeting of the Advisory Commission of the "Open Skies" Treaty about repeated breaches by Turkey.

Since 2002, 34 states of NATO and the former Soviet space have achieved "understanding and mutual trust." Unarmed surveillance flights are allowed on the entire territory of these state parties on the double conditions of 72 hours advance notice and, if necessary, equipment checks by the monitored state before the flyover.

 The overview of the site that houses the Patriot anti-aircraft missile system, in southern Turkey, has been banned since February 2013, supposedly because the system, which operates in automatic mode, could be accidentally triggered by an aircraft on an observation flight. Moreover, these missiles were officially folded by NATO in August 2015.

 In December 2015, Turkey banned Russian observation aircraft from flying over much of its territory along the Syrian border, on the pretext of conducting military operations, and abstained to justify these restrictions, contrary to the provisions of the Treaty.

 On January 26, 2016, Russia notified all States parties to the Treaty of its intention to conduct an observation flight over the Turkish territory from February 1 to 5, 2016. The following day, Turkey acknowledged this notification and indicated its willingness to endorse this observation flight and related requests from Russia. There was no mention or preconditions or restrictions.

At a briefing that followed the arrival of the mission at the entry point, Turkey announced that part of its territory located along the border with Syria was a dangerous sector of airspace.

This dangerous sector of the airspace had not been reported by Turkey, contrary to the provisions of Annex I to the Treaty.

At the request of Turkey, the Russian mission amended its altitude observation flight, whose itinerary included the observation of areas along the Syrian border (extending over 770 km, a distance of between 20 and 60 km from the border) and airfields on which are NATO member states’ aircraft.

However, despite this amendment, Turkey did not allow the observation flight, citing instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thereby demonstrating that from the beginning, it did not intend to comply with the Treaty.

Russia is accused by some NATO states of "applying the Treaty selectively". In this respect, Moscow recalled that in 2014, at the height of the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine, it had allowed States parties to have free access to the border areas of Ukraine to ensure that there was no excessive buildup of armed forces and Russian military equipment.

Roger Lagassé