Turkey to allow family of Syrian pilot who crashed to visit him: PM

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will allow the family of a Syrian air force pilot whose warplane crashed on Turkish territory to visit him at the hospital where he is being treated, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told A Haber broadcaster on Monday.

Turkey has been one of the leading critics of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and supports rebels fighting him in the country’s six-year-old war. It currently has armed forces involved in operations along the Syrian side of the frontier.

“This is a humanitarian issue. Permission will be granted (for the visit),” Yildirim said, adding that a commission would be set up to investigate the cause of the crash.

The 56-year-old pilot bailed out of his Mig-23 warplane as it crashed in Turkey’s Hatay region and was found by a Turkish rescue team. In his initial testimony to Turkish authorities, he said his aircraft was shot down on its way to strike rural areas near Idlib in northern Syria.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Gareth Jones