ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s prime minister demanded Wednesday that Russia respect Turkey’s borders, saying the nation won’t “make any concessions” on matters of border security, after two Russian warplanes strayed into Turkish airspace over the weekend.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also renewed criticism of the Russian airstrikes in Syria, insisting they were mainly targeting the moderate Syrian opposition and therefore helping strengthen the extremist Islamic State group that is fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. He asked that Russia also respect Turkey’s security concerns over neighboring Syria.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s military reported a new incident, saying surface-to-air missile systems based in Syria locked radar on Turkish jets for 1 minute and 30 seconds Tuesday. It was not clear if they were Syrian or Russian systems.
Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s borders twice over the weekend, drawing strong protests from Turkey’s NATO allies. Turkey scrambled F-16s in response and also summoned the Russian ambassador to lodge a protest. Ankara also reported its jets were harassed during patrols of the Syrian border by fighter jets and surface-to-air missile systems in Syria.
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Turkey and Russia are important trade partners and Turkey is strongly dependent on Russian gas imports. The two countries have conflicting positions on Syria — with Russia backing Assad and Turkey insisting on his ouster — but have set their differences aside in the past so as not to harm economic ties.
“We would not want any tensions with Russia, but it is our right as a neighbor to expect Russia to respect Turkey’s airspace and borders and to respect Turkey’s interests in Syria,” Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul.
“We would not make any concessions in connection to our border security and air space security,” he said.
Davutoglu said the information Turkey had indicated that out of 57 air strikes carried out by Russia in Syria, only two had targeted IS extremists.
“If the Syrian opposition is weakened, this would strengthen Daesh,” Davutoglu said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic extremist group. “If the struggle is against Daesh, let’s work together. But if they are against the moderate opposition and being conducted in a way that could lead to a new refugee influx, then this is a serious issue which needs to be discussed by all sides.”
Earlier, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Ankara had proposed a meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials in Ankara on avoiding future Russian infringements of Turkey’s airspace.