The Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that a drone downed in northeast Syria by the United States on Thursday belonged to Turkey, while saying that the incident did not affect an ongoing operation the Turkish military has been conducting against Kurdish militant groups in the region.
The ministry’s statement came as the first confirmation from the Turkish side that the downed drone was owned by Turkey.
The ministry said, “During operations, one UCAV was lost due to different technical assessments in the deconfliction mechanism with third parties. Necessary measures are being taken to ensure a more effective operation of the deconfliction mechanism with the relevant parties.”
The ministry’s statement did not include any direct reference to the United States, which has approximately 900 troops deployed in Syria as part of international efforts to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that US F-16 warplanes on Thursday shot down a drone belonging to NATO ally Turkey that was deemed a potential threat to American forces in Syria.
The incident came as Turkey carries out airstrikes targeting Kurdish forces in the area following a suicide bombing on Sunday in Ankara that was claimed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
US forces observed drones carrying out airstrikes in northeast Syria on Thursday morning, some of them inside a “restricted operating zone” (ROZ) near Hasakah, about a kilometer (less than a mile) from American troops, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder told journalists.
The Turkish Defense Ministry, however, on Thursday denied that the drone belonged to its armed forces, as reported by Reuters. Some reports said it belonged to the Turkish intelligence agency, MİT.
The Turkish foreign ministry said in its statement on Friday that the incident did not affect the ongoing military operation against the PKK and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) targets in Syria and the military’s determination to hit them.
Turkey considers the YPG to be an extension of the PKK.
“Just as it is in the case in Iraq, all skills and revenue sources of the terrorist organization will continue to be exterminated in Syria,” said the ministry.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Wednesday that Turkey reserved the right to strike a broader range of Kurdish targets in both Syria and Iraq in retaliation for Sunday’s attack.
“From now on, all infrastructure, large facilities and energy facilities belonging to [armed Kurdish groups] in Iraq and Syria are legitimate targets for our security forces,” Fidan said.
Turkish airstrikes Thursday on military and infrastructure targets in Kurdish-held northeastern Syria killed at least nine people, according to a Kurdish official.