NATO issued a warning to Russia on Monday to avoid any further “unacceptable” crossovers into Turkish airspace as Moscow continues airstrikes in Syria. The warning from Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, comes just two days after a confrontation between Turkish warplanes and Russian aircraft.
Stoltenberg called a special meeting in Brussels to discuss Russia’s “unacceptable violation of Turkish airspace.”
Stoltenberg issued a statement saying that “Russia’s actions are not contributing to the security and stability of the region.”
In this meeting, the secretary general also highlighted the clear divide between Russian and the west when it comes to the Syrian conflict. A military alliance between the two sides has higher stakes than ever now.
Earlier, Turkey issued a warning to Russia claiming that any further violations of Turkish airspace risked “undesirable” consequences.
“The Turkish armed forces have their orders,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters. “The necessary will be done even if it’s a bird that violates Turkey’s border . . . Our rules of engagement are clear.”
This statement adds yet another level of complexity to the multi-layer Syrian conflict. Like its western partners Turkey opposed the rule of current Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, someone who Moscow has openly supported.
The incident also adds growing concern to the chance of military confrontations between Russian warplanes and the American-led coalition. The coalition is waging airstrikes against ISIS forces in Syria.
Last week, the Pentagon and the Kremlin began conversations as to how to avoid potential missteps as both nations conducted airstrikes in Syria, sometimes in nearby locations. Russia claims to be targeting ISIS fighters, but so far many of their airstrikes have taken place in areas controlled by anti-Assad forces and American-backed rebel groups.
American Secretary of State John Kerry told media sources that the U.S. was quite concerned about the Russian violation of Turkish airspace. “It is precisely the kind of thing we warned about,” he continued.
While the Turkish military is not directly involved in the Syrian conflict, they are currently allowing U.S. coalition warplanes to use an airbase near the Syrian boarder. Turkey has indirectly been involved in the conflict, with as many as 2 million Syrian refugees entering the country.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister issued a statement saying that Russia would be held “responsible for any undesired incident” as a result of continuing to violate Turkish airspace. The message was directed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
On Saturday, two Turkish F-16 fighters intercepted a Russian warplane flying in Turkish airspace and forced in back over the boarders. While Russia claims that the incident was accidental, the Turkish government sees Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict as only adding to the crisis.
Many American officials agree with this stance, claiming that Russia’s mission in Syria is “doomed to fail” as it only served to prop up Assad’s regime and did not aim to solve the real crisis.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter went as far as saying that Russia’s involvement “will only pour gasoline on the civil war of Syria.”
In the meantime, Assad claims that he will continue to attend peace talks sponsored by Moscow. Ultimately, he has stated that no settlement can be made until “terrorism”, a term he has often used to describe the government’s armed opponents, has been defeated.