Turkish jets intercept Russian warplane over Turkey

Turkish military jets intercepted a Russian fighter plane which had violated the country’s airspace while flying a bombing sortie over Syria. Turkey adamantly opposes the Russian intervention in Syria. As has been the case with the actions by the Syrian military, the majority of the Russian bombing raids have targeted opposition groups, some supported by the United States, rather than the forces of Islamic State. Last week, Turkey and other members of the U.S.-led coalition campaign against ISIS issued a joint statement which asked Moscow to cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and focus instead on fighting ISIS.

 Turkey’s ministry of foreign affairs said that on Saturday, two F-16 fighter jets intercepted the Russian plane while it was flying south of Hatay, a province which borders Syria. The Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador to the country and “strongly protested” about the violation. Turkey said it was made clear that Russia would be blamed for any further escalation.

Turkey also lodged a formal protest with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and said it would consult with its NATO allies about the implications of the incident. Richard Moore, the U.K. ambassador to Turkey, said: “Russia’s incursion into Turkish airspace is reckless and worrying. U.K., and its other NATOallies, stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey.”

The BBC reports that Turkey’s military also said that on Sunday an MIG-29 jet harassed two Turkish F-16s for 5 minutes 40 seconds by locking its radar on to them. The Turkish military said the incident occurred while ten F-16s were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border, adding that it did it not know to which country the MIG-29 belonged.

Russia began airstrikes in Syria last week in an effort to save the regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have suffered a series of battlefield defeats since the beginning of the year. As has been the case with the actions by the Syrian military, the majority of the Russian bombing raids have targeted opposition groups, some supported by the United States, rather than the forces of Islamic State.

Turkey adamantly opposes the Russian intervention. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government joined Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states in insisting on Assad’s departure as a condition to resolving the crisis, and has backed several rebel groups fighting to overthrow him. Last week, Turkey and other members of the U.S.-led coalition campaign against ISIS issued a joint statement which asked Moscow to cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and focus instead on fighting ISIS.

“Assad has committed state terrorism, and unfortunately you find Russia and Iran defending [him],” Erdoğan told a crowd of supporters in Strasbourg, France, late on Sunday, according to the Hürriyet newspaper. “Those countries that collaborate with the regime will account for it in history.”

 

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