Russia was warned Tuesday to keep out of Turkish air space by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) over its violations of Turkish Air Space.
“Russian combat aircraft have violated Turkish airspace,” NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement on the NATO website following the organization’s meeting Monday (Oct 5). “This is unacceptable.”
In a follow-up news conference, Stoltenberg went on to say, “It doesn’t look like an accident (as Moscow had claimed earlier), and we also have seen two of them, two violations of Turkish airspace. Intelligence that we have received provides me with reason to say it doesn’t look like an accident.”
The first incursion was reported on Saturday, and the second allegedly occurred on Sunday, officials said.
“I’m also concerned that Russia is not targeting ISIL (the group’s acronym for ISIS, or Da’esh), but instead attacking the Syrian opposition and civilians,” Stoltenberg continued.
“I discussed the situation in Syria with [Russia’s] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov in New York last week. I urge Russia to play a constructive and cooperative role in the fight against ISIL, and to strive for a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria.”
Turkey has been an active member of NATO since 1952.
Israeli Minister Yuval Steinitz told Galei Tzahal Radio last week that Israel does not want to see Russian troops on the Golan Heights and is concerned about the positioning of Iranian ground troops in the neighboring country, and the opening of a direct ground front with Iran.
Steinitz added, the world powers must “ensure the Iranian army stays in Iran. We should not see Iranian army divisions in Syria.”
Steinitz said Israel has no official position on the fate of Assad as it’s an internal Arab civil war, but added that “the war against Sunni terror [ISIS] can’t come together with support for Iranian Shiite terror.”
“Allies expressed their deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria,” NATO said in its statement, “and especially the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs, and Idlib which led to civilian casualties and did not target Da’esh.
“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. The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings,” the statement went on.
“Allies strongly protest these violations of Turkish sovereign airspace, and condemn these incursions into and violations of NATO airspace. Allies also note the extreme danger of such irresponsible behaviour. They call on the Russian Federation to cease and desist, and immediately explain these violations.”
Russia is also moving in equipment in preparation for a rather more extended role in the region than its originally-stated claim, according to eyewitness reports in Syria.
Recently Moscow moved electronic jamming equipment into the country, including a truck-mounted system and a number of aircraft-mountable pods, according to local sources.
Several pieces of artillery were also moved into the country at Latakia port, including four highly accurate BM-30 multiple-launch rapid-fire rocket systems.
Instead of remaining at the port, however, the weapons were moved and currently are reported to be in position west of Idlib, towards Homs.
According to the report, the U.S. believes Russia is “stepping up its ground activity” to attack Syrian opposition forces rather than ISIS.
Officials are reportedly questioning whether Russian forces are planning to jam the electronics of coalition aircraft as they fly over Syria.
Russia, meanwhile, contends it is indeed targeting ISIS. But it is clear that its forces are also clearly bolstering the flagging defenses of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hana Levi Julian