Turkey to Russia: Respect Our Borders

Turkey to Russia: Respect Our Borders

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's prime minister called on Russia on Wednesday to respect Turkey's frontiers, saying the country wouldn't "make any concessions" on matters concerning its border security, after two Russian warplanes strayed into Turkish airspace over the weekend.

Ahmet Davutoglu also renewed criticism of Russian airstrikes in Syria, insisting they were mainly targeting the moderate Syrian opposition and therefore helping strengthen the Islamic State group. He asked that Russia also respect Turkey's security concerns over Syria.

Russian warplanes violated Turkey's borders on two occasions 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 protests. Ankara also reported harassment of its jets during patrols of the Syrian border by fighter jets and surface-to-air missile systems in Syria.

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 President Bashar Assad and Turkey insisting on his ouster — but have set 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 to be held in Ankara on avoiding future Russian infringements of Turkey's airspace.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgic said Turkey suggested the meeting during a meeting with the Russian ambassador who was summoned to the ministry for a third day running on Tuesday to discuss the Russian violations. The talks were proposed to allow Russian military officials to explain the intrusions and clarify measures they intend to take, he said.

(KA)