By Mark Rivett-Carnac
October 7, 2015

The Russian military’s recent incursions into Turkish airspace don’t “look like an accident,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Tuesday.

He said the incursions lasted “for a long time,” disputing the Russian Ministry of Defense’s claim that an SU-30 warplane had only entered the NATO ally’s airspace on Saturday for a few seconds, driven there by bad weather.

NATO says another Russian aircraft entered Turkish airspace on Sunday. The alliance condemned both of these intrusions, noting the “extreme danger of such irresponsible behavior.”

“I will not speculate on the motives,” Stoltenberg said. “I would just reiterate or restate that this is a serious violation of Turkish airspace, it should not happen again.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also warned Russia. “An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO,” Reuters reported Erdogan as saying at a Brussels news conference.

Airspace violations like these have turned violent in the past. Earlier this year, Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that entered its territory, according to a report by Reuters.

The tension at the Turkish border comes as NATO warily eyes Russia’s escalating military presence in Syria.

Moscow began air strikes on Sept. 30, sharing Syria’s skies with a U.S.-led coalition that has launched air strikes for a year against the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL). Moscow claims it is also targeting terrorists, but NATO has rejected these accounts.

Stoltenberg said he was “concerned that Russia is not targeting ISIL, but instead attacking the Syrian opposition,” referring to claims that Russia is actually bombing the insurgents fighting to topple Syrian President, and Russian ally, Bashar Assad.

The four-year civil war in Syria has already cost 200,000 lives and displaced millions.

[Reuters]

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