US says Moscow strategy in Syria will ‘guarantee more terrorism’.
The US does not believe Russia’s incursion into Turkey’s airspace was an accident, a senior US official said, adding that urgent talks are underway on what to do about the weekend incident.
The official said the event is the type of conduct that US Defence Secretary Ash Carter spoke with the Russian defence minister about during their recent phone call.
Russia has acknowledged a plane entered Turkish airspace, but has said it was an accident.
Secretary of State John Kerry, in Chile for an ocean environmental conference, said the incident could have led to Turkey shooting down the Russian plane.
“We’re very concerned about it... and it is precisely the kind of thing we warned about,” he told reporters, saying Russia has a responsibility to act within international standards.
Speaking at a press conference in Spain, Carter said the US is conferring with Turkish leaders about the airspace violation and that the issue will come up later this week at the Nato meeting of defence ministers.
The senior official said Carter has not yet had any direct discussions with Turkish officials. The official was not authorised to talk publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Kerry said he spoke to Turkish foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu on Saturday.
The Turkish foreign ministry said that a Russian warplane entered Turkey’s airspace near the town of Yayladagi, near the Syrian border on Saturday.
Two F-16 jets intercepted the Russian aircraft and forced it to fly back into Syrian airspace.
Also yesterday, Turkey’s military 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.
The military said the incident occurred while 10 F-16s were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border and it did not know which country the MiG-29 belonged to.
During a speech earlier at the Center for Advanced Studies of National Defence, Carter called on Russia “to act in a safe and professional manner” and to uphold international standards for safety and respect the sovereignty of all nations.
Carter said Russia’s military action in Syria against moderate groups puts at further risk “the very political resolution and preservation of Syria’s structure of future governance it says that it wants”.
“This approach is tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire of the Syrian civil war,” he said.
Carter said he hopes Russian president Vladimir Putin “will see that tethering Russia to a sinking ship is a losing strategy” and that it will go after Islamic State targets rather than using its airstrikes to hit Assad’s opposition in Syria.
Kerry said Russia’s strategy “will almost certainly guarantee much more terrorism, much more destruction and possibly the complete destruction of the state of Syria”.
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