Turkey PM says 'only two' Russia strikes targeted IS

Turkey PM says 'only two' Russia strikes targeted IS
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said only two Russian airstrikes in Syria had targeted Islamic State fighters, as he issued a security warning following Moscow's airspace violations.
3 min read
07 October, 2015
Turkish F-16s were scrambled several times over the last few days [Getty]

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Wednesday said only two Russian airstrikes in Syria had targeted Islamic State extremists and warned that Ankara would not make any concessions about the security of its borders.

His comments came after Russian warplanes twice violated the airspace of key NATO member Turkey in the last days.

Davutoglu said only two out of 57 bombardments had targeted IS fighters with all the others targeting moderate rebels backed by Turkey and the United States.

     If there's going to be a fight against Daesh [Islamic State], let's do it together
- Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

He said in televised remarks that the figures were based on military intelligence Turkey had received.

"If there's going to be a fight against Daesh, let's do it together," he said, using the Arabic name for the group.

Davutoglu warned against any operation targeting civilians and the Syrian opposition which he said could lead to a new refugee influx.

Russian aircraft also violated Turkish airspace on Saturday and on Sunday, prompting Ankara to summon the Russian envoy to the foreign ministry twice to protest the breach.

Also, Turkish F-16 jets carrying out reconnaissance flights on the Syrian border were harassed and put on radar lock by unidentified MIG-29 planes in the last days.

"We will not make any concessions in the context of our border and air space security," Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu said Turkey's airspace was naturally NATO airspace, urging Russia to respect his country's border security while dismissing any tensions with its major trade partner.

"We do not want any tensions with Russia but as I say, it is our most natural right to expect Russia to be careful about Turkey's airspace, borders and Turkey's interests in Syria," he added.

Can't 'remain patient' if violations

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned Russia on Tuesday against losing Turkey's friendship, saying that Turkey cannot "remain patient" in the face of violations.

NATO has extended support for Turkey, with its chief Jens Stoltenberg accusing Moscow of deliberately breaching Turkish airspace.

The Russian ambassador "was invited" to the Turkish foreign ministry on Tuesday over the incursions, the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The envoy had already been summoned twice to hear Turkish protests over the Russian air incursions.

Ankara said it was ready to meet with Russian military authorities to listen to what sort of measures would be taken to prevent further violations, the ministry said.

Davutoglu also confirmed the meeting with the Russian ambassador, saying it came after divergences in information provided by the Russian authorities and intelligence on the ground over the incursions.

"We are negotiating with the Russian side sincerely and friendly as two neighbouring countries which respect each other, about how many minutes the violations lasted and under what circumstances," the premier said.

"Military and diplomatic officials are negotiating," he said.

The foreign ministry however denied reports from Russia the two sides had discussed creating a working group to prevent repeat incidents.

Russia's defence ministry on Wednesday said it was continuing talks with Turkey over setting up a "mechanism" aimed at avoiding incidents in the airspace along the Syrian-Turkish border.