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Turkey warns Russia after 'second airspace breach'

Published 31/01/2016

A Russian SU-24 takes off on a combat mission from Syria (AP)
A Russian SU-24 takes off on a combat mission from Syria (AP)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Moscow that it will "endure the consequences" if its jets continued to enter his country's airspace, after Ankara reported a new border infringement incident by a Russian plane.

Nato member Turkey said another Russian warplane breached its airspace on Friday despite several warnings - two months after Turkey shot down a Russian jet for crossing over its territory.

The past incident seriously strained the previously close ties between the two countries, damaging a strong economic partnership.

"We regard this infringement which came despite all our warnings in Russian and in English as an effort by Russia to escalate the crisis in the region," Mr Erdogan said before embarking on a Latin American tour.

"If Russia continues the violations of Turkey's sovereign rights it will be forced to endure the consequences." He did not specify what those consequences might be.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov denied any violation of Turkey's airspace and called the Turkish statements "unsubstantiated propaganda".

Mr Erdogan said he attempted to reach Russian president Vladimir Putin to discuss the issue but he did not respond.

"These irresponsible steps do not help the Russian Federation, Nato-Russia relations or regional and global peace," Mr Erdogan said. "On the contrary they are detrimental."

Turkey's foreign ministry said the Russian SU-34 crossed into Turkish airspace on Friday, ignoring several warnings in Russian and in English by Turkish radar units. It said Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to the ministry to "strongly protest" at the violation. It was not clear where exactly the new infringement had occurred.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also called on Russia "to act responsibly and to fully respect Nato airspace" but also urged "calm and de-escalation" of tensions between Moscow and Ankara.

"Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again," he said. "Nato stands in solidarity with Turkey and supports the territorial integrity of our ally Turkey."

In November, Turkey shot down a Russian plane which violated its airspace near Syria, sparking a crisis between the two countries. It was the first time in more than half a century that a Nato nation had shot down a Russian plane.

Turkey brought down the Russian SU-24 bomber near the border with Syria on November 24, saying it entered its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia insists the plane never entered Turkish airspace. One pilot and a Russian marine of the rescue party were killed in the incident.

The Russian military quickly sent missile systems to Syria and warned that it would fend off any threat to its aircraft. Moscow also punished Turkey by imposing an array of economic sanctions.

On Saturday, Mr Stoltenberg said Nato had agreed in December to increase the presence of AWACS early warning planes over Turkey to increase the country's air defences. He said the decision was taken before Friday's incident.

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