Turkey says Russian warplane violated its airspace
ANKARA, TURKEY: Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the violation of its airspace by a Russian warplane near the border with Syria over the weekend, and demanded that Moscow avoid future infringements, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
The Russian warplane 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 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.