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U.S., NATO Condemn Russia's Violations Of Turkish Airspace

  • RFE/RL

An image from video footage released by Russia's Defense Ministry on October 5 shows a Russian Air Force Su-24 military jet slowing down after a sortie at Heymim air base in Syria.

An image from video footage released by Russia's Defense Ministry on October 5 shows a Russian Air Force Su-24 military jet slowing down after a sortie at Heymim air base in Syria.

The United States and its NATO allies have condemned Russia's incursions into Turkey's airspace, saying the violations were both dangerous and irresponsible.

Ankara said Turkish warplanes were scrambled after a Russian warplane violated Turkey's airspace on October 3.

It said Turkish jets patrolling the border were also "harassed" by an unidentified plane on October 4.

The Russian Defense Ministry said one of its warplane briefly entered Turkish air space due to "unfavorable weather conditions."

After an emergency meeting on October 5, NATO said, "Allies strongly protest these violations of Turkish sovereign airspace, and condemn these incursions into and violations of NATO airspace."

"Allies also note the extreme danger of such irresponsible behavior," the statement added.

In Washington, the White House said the United States and its allies were "quite concerned" about Russia's incursion into Turkish airspace.

And State Department spokesman Mark Toner described the incursion as "reckless."

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that Ankara will activate military rules of engagement irrespective of who violates its airspace.

Davutoglu said Russia made clear that the violation was a "mistake" and insisted it "will not happen again."

He also said the airspace violation would not cause tensions in bilateral relations.

"The Syrian issue is not a Turkey-Russia crisis," he said, hoping that Moscow would give up on its "wrong attitudes."

Russia began its air campaign in Syria on September 30, claiming to hit Islamic State (IS) fighters and their military assets every day.

But the United States and several other countries and international monitors have said Russian jets are targeting other rebel groups to help stabilize Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

In its statement, NATO demanded that Moscow halt all air strikes against the Syrian opposition and civilians.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said there was no indication that Russia had changed its strategy on efforts to concentrate its military efforts in Syria on fighting the IS militants.

Earlier in Madrid, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Russia had "escalated the civil war" in Syria.

He added that he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin "will decide to confront the threat presented by [IS] instead of continuing its unilateral air strikes against Assad's opposition."

Carter is on a five-day trip to Europe for talks with allies in the U.S.-led multinational coalition that is carrying out drone and jet-fighter strikes against IS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, Russia said its warplanes flew 15 sorties over Syria on October 5, targeting 10 IS targets.

The Defense Ministry said three IS artillery positions in Homs Province were destroyed in one group of air strikes.

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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