The bodies of the two Turkish pilots, whose fighter jet was downed by Syria last month for violating the country’s airspace, have been found.
According to Turkish sources, the bodies of Captain Gokhan Ertan and Lieutenant Hasan Huseyin Aksoy were found on the Eastern Mediterranean sea bed by a US deep-sea exploration vessel on Wednesday. The bodies were located at a depth of 1,260 meters.
The Turkish military has been conducting a search operation for the two pilots since their F-4 Phantom jet was shot down on June 22 after entering the Syrian airspace.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad expressed regret that his country's defense forces shot down a Turkish jet fighter , but insisted that the plane was downed for violating Syria's airspace.
"I would have wished 100 percent that we had not attacked it," Assad said in an interview with Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper published on Tuesday.
He also said the plane was flying at low altitude and in an air corridor used in the past by the Israeli planes to attack Syria. Ankara, however, claims that the jet was downed in international airspace.
Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency has quoted an unnamed Russian source as saying that the Turkish jet asked for trouble when it entered the Syrian airspace last month.
"The actions of the Turkish plane were no doubt a provocation. Otherwise how would you explain the fact that the fighter jet flew two, albeit short, sorties in the Syrian airspace?"
"The crew had to have only one motive for such actions -- to test the combat readiness of the Syrian air defense systems and it indeed tested them. And also to conduct a reconnaissance of the strength and capabilities of the Syrian air defense systems in the coastal direction," the source said.
"In any case, the crew of the Turkish Phantom have tried hard to literally ask for the Syrian air defenses' fire," it added.