Turkey threatens to ‘engage’ Russian warplanes
Turkey has threatened to “engage” Russian warplanes after the Turkish military allegedly intercepted a Russian fighter jet that had violated the country’s airspace while flying a sortie near the border with neighboring Syria over the weekend.
“Our rules of engagement are clear whoever violates our air space,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Haber-Turk television in an interview.
“The Turkish Armed Forces are clearly instructed. Even if it is a flying bird it will be intercepted,” he added.
Ankara asserts that any element approaching the Turkish border from Syria would be treated as an enemy.
The comments came after the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov over the incident.
The ministry, in a statement released on Monday, said a Russian warplane crossed into the Turkish airspace south of the Yayladagi district in the southern province of Hatay at 12:08 a.m. local time (0908 GMT) on October 3.
The statement added that Turkish officials had expressed strong protest at the violation during the meeting with Karlov, and demanded that Russia not violate the Turkish airspace again. They also warned that Russia would be “responsible for any undesired incident.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu also had a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to complain about the incident.
NATO warns Moscow
Meanwhile, Secretary General of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Jens Stoltenberg has warned Moscow about escalating tensions with the Western military alliance through “unacceptable” violations of Turkish airspace.
“I just met with Foreign Minister of Turkey Feridun Sinirlioglu to discuss the recent military actions of the Russian Federation in and around Syria, including the unacceptable violations of Turkish airspace by Russian combat aircraft,” he said.
“I call on Russia to fully respect NATO airspace and avoid escalating tensions with the alliance,” Stoltenberg noted.
“I made clear that NATO remains strongly committed to Turkey’s security. Russia’s actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region,” the NATO chief pointed out.
Russian defense ministry said on Monday that its military jets had carried out strikes on nine Daesh sites in Syria over the past 24 hours..
The Russian warplanes hit Daesh command centers, weapon caches, artillery and communication posts in the Homs, Idlib and Latakia provinces of Syria, the ministry said in a statement.
“25 sorties were completed by Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 jets from the airbase in Hmeimim. Nine IS (Daesh) facilities were struck,” the statement said.
The raids have drawn criticism from Western governments and their allies in the Middle East, which have been supporting the militants operating in the region.
Moscow began its aerial campaign in Syria last Wednesday weeks after Lavrov said he had been informed by sources from the so-called international US-led anti-Daesh coalition that the coalition, on a number of occasions, had not conducted airstrikes against confirmed Daesh positions inside Syria. The Russian foreign minister voiced suspicion over the sincerity of Washington in its aerial attacks in Syria.
The US and some of its Arab allies have allegedly been conducting airstrikes against Daesh inside Syria since last September. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) broadcast on October 4, said the US-led raids have been counterproductive. He also said the attacks have resulted in the spread of terrorism.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011 aimed at toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people so far.