NATO warns Russia after fighter jets enter Turkish airspace

NATO warns Russia after fighter jets enter Turkish airspace
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is calling on Russia to stop violating Turkish airspace and immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians.

Russian fighter jets violated Turkey's airspace on Saturday and Sunday, according to NATO, after Moscow began an air campaign in Syria last week to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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"Russian military actions have reached a more dangerous level with the recent violations of Turkish airspace on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in the Hatay region," NATO said in a statement.

"The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings," it added. "In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace."

Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement Monday that a Russian fighter aircraft entered its airspace on Saturday and departed after it was intercepted by two F-16 fighter jets from the Turkish Air Force, which was conducting patrols in the region.

The statement added that Turkey's acting undersecretary of the foreign ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Ankara to strongly protest the violation, demanding that "any such violation not be repeated and affirmed that, otherwise, the Russian Federation will be responsible for any undesired incident that may occur."

Turkey is a member of NATO and part of the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Article Five of NATO's founding treaty states that other members must defend a member if it faces an armed attack. 

Members of NATO's principal political decision-making body said in their statement that they "strongly protest these violations of Turkish sovereign airspace, and condemn these incursions into and violations of NATO airspace." 

They also noted the "extreme danger of such irresponsible behavior" and called on Moscow to "cease and desist" and immediately explain the violations. 

"The security of the Alliance is indivisible, and Allies stand in strong solidarity with Turkey. We will continue to follow the developments on the South-Eastern borders of NATO very closely," they said. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also reiterated NATO's commitment to Turkey's security in a separate statement.

He also expressed "deep concern" about Russia's military involvement in the conflict, which Moscow claimed is aimed at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, Western officials and local reports say Russian airstrikes have instead hit civilians and Western-backed anti-regime groups. 

"Allies call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians, to focus its efforts on fighting ISIL, and to promote a solution to the conflict through a political transition," the secretary general said, using an alternate name for the terror group.