ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, prompting Ankara to scramble two F-16 jets to intercept it and summon Moscow’s ambassador in protest, the foreign ministry said on Monday.
Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, said the Russian jet entered Turkish airspace south of the Hatay region on Saturday.
“(It) exited Turkish airspace into Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force, which were conducting patrols in the region,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
President Tayyip Erdogan has criticised Russia’s air strikes in Syria, launched last week, as a “grave mistake”. Moscow says it aims to weaken Islamic State but Western powers see them as support for President Bashar al-Assad.
“Assad has committed state terrorism, and unfortunately you find Russia and Iran defending (him),” Erdogan was quoted by the Hurriyet newspaper as telling a crowd of supporters in Strasbourg, France, late on Sunday.
“Those countries that collaborate with the regime will account for it in history,” he said.
The foreign ministry said it had summoned Moscow’s ambassador to protest the violation and urged Russia against any repeat, warning that it would be held “responsible for any undesired incident that may occur.”
Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, as well as key NATO partners, the statement said.
“Russia’s incursion into Turkish airspace is reckless and worrying. UK, and its other NATO Allies, stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey,” British Ambassador Richard Moore said on Twitter.
Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Toby Chopra