ANKARA: Turkey’s prime minister vowed on Monday to take all necessary measures to protect his country’s borders from violation after a Russian fighter jet entered its airspace over the weekend, prompting it to scramble jets and summon the Russian ambassador in protest.

He said Russia had admitted that the plane had entered Turkey by mistake and assured Turkey that it wouldn’t happen again.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in Madrid that the United Sates was conferring with Turkish leaders about the infringement.

The incident comes amid Turkish concerns over Russian air strikes in Syria that have targeted some foreign-backed insurgents.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said during an interview with Haber Turk television that the Nato-member state would enforce its rules of engagement if its airspace was violated. The rules call for the treatment of any element approaching the Turkish border from Syria as an enemy.

“The Turkish armed forces have their orders,” he said. “The necessary will be done even if it’s a bird that violates Turkey’s border ... Our rules of engagement are clear.”

A Turkish foreign ministry statement said a Russian war plane entered Turkey’s airspace near the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province on Saturday. Two F-16 jets intercepted the aircraft and forced it to fly back into the Syrian airspace.

Turkey’s military also said a MIG-29 jet had harassed two Turkish F-16s for five minutes and 40 seconds on Sunday by locking its radar onto them. It said the incident occurred while 10 F-16s were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border. The military said it didn’t know which country the MIG-29 belonged to.

Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador and demanded that Russia avoid future infringements, the foreign ministry said. It warned that Russia would be held “responsible for any undesired incident” that may occur. The message was also relayed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by telephone.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed solidarity with Turkey and said the situation would be taken up at a meeting of the alliance.

“I call on Russia to fully respect NATO airspace and to avoid escalating tensions with the Alliance. I urge Russia to take the necessary steps to align its efforts with those of the international community in the fight against” the self-styled Islamic State militant group, he added.

Mr Davutoglu said Russia had assured Turkey that the airspace would not be violated again.

“The information we got from Russia this morning is that it was an incident that occurred by mistake,” he said

“They said they are respectful of Turkey’s borders and that it would not happen again.”.—AP

Published in Dawn, October 6th , 2015

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