Turkey satisfied with NATO’s swift support over Russian airspace violation

Turkey satisfied with NATO’s swift support over Russian airspace violation

Akif Beki - ISTANBUL
Turkey satisfied with NATO’s swift support over Russian airspace violation

A Russian bomber lands at Hemeimeem air base in Syria on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. Russian warplanes have flown over 5,700 combat missions since Moscow launched its air campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Vladimir Isachenkov)

Turkey has expressed its satisfaction with NATO’s clear support to Ankara after another Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace on Jan. 29.

“An important thing was NATO coming to the forefront. It issued a statement [with Turkey]. Any violation of Turkish airspace is a violation of NATO’s airspace and will be addressed accordingly. Our instruction to the Foreign Ministry was to ask Russia to explain this violation to the NATO Secretary-General,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told journalists en route to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 31. 

“That was the same assessment we made with our president at midnight [on Jan. 29]. NATO’s stance on this issue is satisfactory,” Davutoğlu said.

Turkey said a Russian warfighter violated Turkish airspace on Jan. 29, despite the pilot being repeatedly warned in Russian and English. The incident comes almost two months after Turkey shot down another Russian aircraft because of an airspace violation. 

NATO and the United States confirmed the latest violation, as NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg immediately urged Russia not to escalate tension by continuing its airspace violations.  
Davutoğlu recalled that this violation took place over the Mare-Jarablus line, an area that Turkey and U.S.-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition members are trying to clear of jihadists. 

“This situation requires another evaluation of this violation. This is a region where the Free Syrian Army [FSA] is making gains against DAESH. This is where coalition forces are supporting the FSA against DAESH. Russia is not needed there. Its presence there causes risks, but it’s trying to show it is influential over all Syrian airspace. That’s why we will evaluate this within the frame of the [anti-ISIL] coalition,” he said, using an Arabic acronym to refer to ISIL.

‘Russia trying to counter Turkish vision’

Turkey’s prime minister suggested that Russia’s current military and political doctrine is aimed at rebuilding its influence in parts of the world it lost in the early 1990s. He accused Moscow of trying to “counter the Turkish vision of integration in the region through economic ties in favor of its vision aimed at creating new divisions in the Middle East through ethnic and sectarian conflicts.” 

“But our diplomatic tempo will not be slowed down. We’ll closely follow events and we’ll try to overcome this problem [after the latest airspace violation] without taking any risks,” Davutoğlu said. 

PM meets Riyad Hijab

His visit to Saudi Arabia comes at a time when all eyes are on Geneva, where U.N.-led talks for a political solution to the Syrian war have begun, and he has reviewed developments with both Saudi leaders and the leader of Syria’s High Opposition Council, Riyad Hajib. 

“I will make consultations [with Hijab] about steps to be taken in Geneva,” Davutoğlu said.

On Ankara’s opposition to the participation of the Syria Democratic Union Party (PYD) in the talks in the ranks of the anti-Assad forces, he said Turkey’s position was “based on principles.” 

“We gave them a chance in 2013 as part of the [Kurdish] peace process. They had to make a choice. They were either to walk with Turkey or stand against Turkey by taking the other side. They thought the AK Parti government was vulnerable in the wake of the Gezi protests and the Dec. 17 and 25 [corruption scandal]. They decided to ally with Syria, Russia, Iran and the parallel state,” he said, using a term the government uses to refer to the Gülen movement. 

“May they still come to the table in Geneva? Yes, they may. On the side of the regime,” Davutoğlu said, adding that the PYD “continued to stand with the Bashar al-Assad regime.”