ISTANBUL (AP) — The decision on whether or not to return the Syrian pilot who ejected into Turkey will be made following his treatment, a Turkish Cabinet minister said Sunday.
Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli spoke with reporters in the southern border province of Hatay, where a Syrian military jet crashed on Saturday. Canikli said the pilot had "a few" broken bones and was receiving treatment at a local hospital, but wasn't in critical condition.
The pilot was found in an exhausted state after a nine-hour overnight search and rescue operation in the rain.
Asked whether he would be returned to Syria, Canikli said "the decision will be made in the coming days" after the pilot's duties and activities have been "clarified."
Hatay governor Erdal Ata told state-run Anadolu news agency Saturday that there had been no airspace violation and no intervention by Turkish forces.
Syrian helicopters were shot down for violating Turkish airspace in 2013 and 2015, and a Syrian MIG jet was shot down in 2014 for the same violation. A Russian military plane was similarly shot down by Turkey for violating airspace in 2015, leading to months of tension between Ankara and Moscow.
Syrian opposition military group Ahrar al-Sham said it had downed the plane.
Anadolu said the search and rescue operation was over because the plane was a single-person aircraft.