Ankara:Turkey said Monday a Russian jet had violated its airspace near the border with Syria, leading to two Turkish F-16s escorting the Russian plane out of the area.A foreign ministry statement said the incident happened Saturday, and that NATO-member Turkey warned Russia it would be “responsible for any undesired incident” if another airspace violation takes place.Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Embassy in Turkey saying the incident did happen and that explanations were made to Turkish officials.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia had explained Monday that said the violation “inadvertent” and would not happen again.In a video statement released Monday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he met with Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu to discuss Russian operations in Syria, as well as what he called the “unacceptable violations of Turkish airspace” by Russian military aircraft.Stoltenberg added that “Russia’s actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region,” and that NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, will convene Monday to discuss the incident.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Washington is “conferring” with Ankara over the issue.An unnamed senior U.S. defense official said the purported violation was not accidental. “This was the kind of unprofessional conduct we were hoping to avoid,” the official said.Meanwhile, Russian warplanes continued to conduct airstrikes within Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday its forces struck nine Islamic State targets during the past day, including hitting artillery, communications and command centers and a training camp in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Idlib.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Iraq, where the United States has been leading a coalition of airstrikes against the Islamic State, has not asked Russia to carry out strikes there.Lavrov also said Russia is open to establishing contact with the Free Syrian Army, one of the rebel groups that has been fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since for the past four years.
Western governments have criticized Russia’s involvement in Syria, saying Russian airstrikes are targeting rebels instead of the Islamic State group.The U.S. Defense Secretary said Monday that Russia has “escalated the civil war” in Syria with its bombing campaign.Assad said Sunday that the whole Middle East would be destroyed if Russia’s aerial bombardment of militants opposed to his government does not succeed.
“The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed,” Assad told Iranian state television.But he added that “the chances of success for this coalition are great and not insignificant.”