11/24/2015 05:25 EST | Updated 11/24/2016 05:12 EST

Harjit Sajjan, Stephane Dion Cautious As Turkey Shoots Down Russian Jet

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is moving cautiously after hearing of the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey.

Canada took part in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the political arm of NATO, which heard Turkey's account of the incident.

Turkey says it shot down the Russian war-plane because it crossed into its airspace from Syria despite repeated warnings.

harjit sajjan

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)

It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member country has downed a Russian aircraft, and it led Russian President Vladimir Putin to warn of "significant consequences."

Russia's recent decision to bomb targets inside Syria — something that Canadian CF-18s are also doing as part of a separate U.S.-led coalition — raised the spectre of the Russian military efforts coming into conflict with those of NATO countries.

The Liberal government says it will withdraw Canadian fighter jets and make a stronger contribution to training Iraqi ground forces in the fight against Islamic militants there and in Syria.

"It's very concerning and we need to get far more information."

Tuesday's incident left at least one of two Russian pilots dead, while a helicopter dispatched to search for survivors was shot down, killing another Russian military member.

"It's very concerning and we need to get far more information on this before we proceed," said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

"We need to move cautiously on this."

A statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said Canada is "closely following the reports of a Russian air force jet which was shot down along the Turkish-Syrian border."

The statement said the North Atlantic Council was convened in Brussels for "an extraordinary meeting" at the request of Turkey.

"Given the seriousness of the incident, we are not in a position to comment further at this time," said Dion's office.

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