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Turkey says Russian warplane violated its airspace

Incident raises tension between Moscow and Ankara, which has criticized Russia’s new campaign of airstrikes in Syria

A Russian warplane violated Turkish airspace near the border with Syria, 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.

The incident was followed by a rebuke by NATO, to which Turkey is a member. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described it as am "unacceptable violation."

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was "greatly concerned" by the incursion.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized Russia's airstrikes in Syria, launched last week, as a “grave mistake.” Moscow initially said it aimed to weaken the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but the air campaign has targeted other rebel groups opposing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose reign Russia appears intent on bolstering.

“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 Sunday. “Those countries that collaborate with the regime will account for it in history.”

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday that Moscow described its warplane's violation of Turkey's airspace as a “mistake.”

The Foreign Ministry said it 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, Sergey Lavrov, as well as key NATO partners, the statement said.

“Russia's incursion into Turkish airspace is reckless and worrying. U.K. and its other NATO allies stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey,” British Ambassador Richard Moore said on Twitter.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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