Russian warplane violates Turkish airspace

A Russian warplane, apparently operating inside Syria, violated Turkish airspace over the weekend, Turkish and Russian officials say.

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The Turkish military identified the plane as a MiG-29 fighter jet and said the aircraft locked radar and harassed two Turkish F-16 fighter jets that were patrolling the border with Syria.

The Russian embassy on Monday admitted that “such an incident took place,” according to the Interfax news agency.

It was not immediately clear why Russia would be using a fighter jet, primarily designed for air-to-air combat, in Syria.

Russia’s Defence Ministry has said it is using Sukhoi aircraft on bombing missions against the terrorist group Islamic State. The Syrian military uses Russian-made MiG-29s.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia admitted it “mistakenly” violated Turkey’s airspace, and he issued a sharp warning that the country has clear rules of engagement on its border.

“Whoever it is, no matter from where it is, no matter the nature, our rules of engagement for violations of our airspace are clear,” Davutolgu said in what he described as “friendly warning” according to the Anadolu news agency.

Davutoglu stressed that lines of communication with Russia, a “friend,” are open and that the airspace violation would not cause tensions in the relations between Ankara and Moscow.

Turkey earlier summoned the Russian ambassador and warned that if there were any future violations, Moscow “will be responsible for any undesired incident that may occur,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu contacted his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to protest the incident. The minister was also in touch with key NATO allies, including the United States, the statement said.

Russia said last week it had begun airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria, and claims its efforts have significantly weakened the al-Qaeda splinter group.

Syrian opposition forces have said the Russian strikes have largely targeted rebel groups, including hardline Islamist factions like Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

The strikes seem to be focused on frontline areas where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are facing losses to the rebel factions, especially in the provinces of Idlib and Hama in the north.