Turkey warns Russia over airspace violation

Turkey warns Russia over airspace violation
Turkey's PM warned on Monday that Ankara would activate military rules of engagement irrespective of who violates its airspace, after intercepting a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.
4 min read
05 October, 2015
Russia and Turkey have long been at odds over the crisis in Syria [Getty]

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday warned that Ankara would activate military rules of engagement irrespective of who violates its airspace.

"Our rules of engagement are clear whoever violates our airspace," Davutoglu told Haber-Turk television in an interview after Turkish jets intercepted a Russian fighter which violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border.

"The Turkish Armed Forces are clearly instructed. Even it is a flying bird it will be intercepted," he added.

Davutoglu warned Turkey's enemies and allies not to infringe its airspace but he dismissed the notion of tensions with Russia.

"The Syrian issue is not a Turkey-Russia crisis," he said.

"Our channels with Russia remain open," he said hoping that Moscow would give up on "wrong attitudes."

Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the violation of its airspace and demanded that Moscow avoid future infringements, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The Russian plane violated the Turkey's airspace near the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province on Saturday, prompting Turkey to scramble two F-16 jets which intercepted the Russian aircraft and forced it to fly back into the Syrian airspace, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Also Monday, Turkey's military said a MIG-29 jet had harassed two Turkish F-16s for five minutes and 40 seconds on Sunday by locking its radar onto them.

In a brief statement, the military said the incident occurred while 10 F-16s were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border. The military said it did not to know which country the MIG-29 belonged.

In the meeting with the Russian ambassador, Turkey demanded that Russia avoid such violations again and warned that Russia would be held "responsible for any undesired incident," that may occur, a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said.

The same message was also relayed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by his Turkish counterpart Feridun Sinirlioglu in a telephone conversation.

In Moscow, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on that Russia was looking into reports of the violation of Turkey's airspace. "The reports will be checked so I cannot say anything certain at the moment," he said.

The incident comes as Turkey has expressed concerns over Russian airstrikes in Syria that have targeted some foreign-backed insurgents.

Turkey and Russia also have opposed positions on the Syrian regime, with Russia backing President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey insisting on his ouster.

Last week, Turkey issued a joint statement with its allies involved in the US-backed campaign against the Islamic State group asking Moscow to cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and to focus on fighting the IS.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Russian airstrikes were unacceptable and a grave mistake that could alienate Moscow in the region.

Russia says the airstrikes that began Wednesday are targeting the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, but at least some of the strikes appear to have hit Western-backed rebel factions.

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg will meet Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu Monday to discuss the situation in Syria, the alliance said.

"The meeting will focus on the events of the last weekend and the situation in Syria," a NATO official said, adding that the talks were at Turkey's request.

Turkey's Erdogan in Brussels for migration talks

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is meeting with the EU's top officials for urgent talks on the migration crisis and the Syrian war that is producing so many of the refugees.

Erdogan's visit comes as it emerged that 630,000 people have entered the European Union illegally this year, many coming via Turkey, and that Germany could receive up to 1.5 million asylum-seekers in 2015.

Facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, Brussels and Ankara are reportedly set to discuss a plan that would see Turkey join Greek coastguard patrols in the eastern Aegean, coordinated by EU border agency Frontex.

Any migrants picked up would be taken back to Turkey, where six new camps for up to two million people would be built, co-financed by the EU, to relieve the huge pressure on Greece in particular.

European officials are also set to push Turkey to tackle people smugglers, a scourge that was once again in the spotlight on Sunday when the badly decomposed bodies of two children were found washed up on the Greek island of Kos.

But officials played down the chances of a final deal on the plan during the visit by Erdogan, saying the talks were likely to be "difficult" and that they would probably only mark the formal start of the process.