NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Russian violations of Turkish airspace were “not an accident” after Turkey complained of two incursions by Moscow’s jets.
“For us, this does not look like an accident, it is a serious violation,” Stoltenberg told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of the alliance’s defence ministers later this week.
“Actually there were two violations during the weekend … the violations were for a long time compared to previous violations of airspace we have seen elsewhere in Europe,” he said.
Stoltenberg was apparently referring to an upsurge in Russian flights testing out the defences of NATO’s Baltic and eastern European allies in the fallout from the Ukraine crisis.
Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador to Ankara for a second time after a new violation of its air space by a Russian warplane close to the Syrian border, a Turkish foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.
Russia said Monday that one of its warplanes had briefly entered Turkish airspace during raids in Syria at the weekend due to bad weather and that measures were being taken to avoid a repeat.
Stoltenberg stressed that such incursions were “unacceptable” and “may create a dangerous situation. It is important to make sure this does not happen again.”
NATO has stationed Patriot missiles on Turkey’s southern border with Syria to prevent any spillover from a conflict which has left 250,000 people dead and sparked a mass exodus of migrants seeking safety in Europe.
The missiles are however due to be pulled out shortly and it is uncertain if they will be replaced.
Asked whether their mission would be extended, Stoltenberg said the initial deployment was meant to help defend Turkey against missile attack from Syria.
“What we have seen now is something different … We are constantly reviewing the security situation and will take decisions accordingly,” he said.
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