Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’s airspace’

Turkey Asks NATO Allies For Defense Support — NATO is eager to avoid any international escalation of the Syrian conflict

October 8, 2015

By Robin Emmott, Sabine Siebold and Phil Stewart

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey appealed to its NATO allies on Thursday to shore up missile defenses in the country aimed at shooting down Syrian rockets, as Germany said again that it will withdraw its Patriot batteries and the United States was set to do the same.

NATO is now waiting for other nations to plug those gaps.

Days after Russian jets violated Turkey’s airspace near Syria, Ankara’s NATO envoy urged the U.S.-led alliance to continue to deploy air defense systems, according to two people briefed on talks at a defense ministers meeting in Brussels.

While NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he was prepared to send ground forces to defend Turkey, the situation raised questions about NATO’s strategy in the country, which shares a border with both Syria and Iraq.

Germany’s defense minister said Berlin would go ahead with plans to switch off its Patriot batteries in Turkey next week and withdraw most of the soldiers operating them before Christmas. All soldiers and materiel are due to be withdrawn by the end of January.

“This decision (to withdraw the Patriots) is right,” Ursula von der Leyen said as she arrived for the meeting.

“The question is what danger can be warded off in which way,” she said. The comments appeared to suggest that the Turkish air force is capable of intercepting fighter jets.

Backing up that suggestion and acknowledging that there were discussions about ways to reassure Turkey and deter Russia, Stoltenberg told journalists after the morning session: “What we now see is other kinds of challenges. But again, we are discussing with different allies, with Turkey, how and in what format we can support them.”

As Russian and U.S. planes fly combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two, NATO is eager to avoid any international escalation of the Syrian conflict that has unexpectedly turned the alliance’s attention away from Ukraine following Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year.

NATO deployed its Patriot missiles in January 2013 in Turkey and Spain now has batteries in place to confront ballistic missiles launched by Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States will withdraw its Patriot deployment any day for modernization. France and Italy are understood to be willing to join Spain, but no decision has been taken, people familiar with the discussion say.

Spain’s Defense Minister Pedro Morenes said this week that although he was concerned by Russia’s incursion into Turkish airspace, his nation’s Patriots were deployed to defend “against attacks with missiles coming from Syria”.

Since 2012, NATO has detected several hundred ballistic missile launches with Syria, emphasizing what it sees as the need for an effective defense of Turkey.

READY, WILLING AND ABLE

Officials at the U.S.-led alliance are still smarting from Russia’s weekend incursions into Turkey’s airspace near northern Syria. In public comments, Stoltenberg says the alliance’s support of its 28 allies is unwavering.

“NATO is ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey against any threats,” he said as he arrived for the meeting.

“NATO has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces including to the south, including in Turkey,” he said, noting that Russia’s air and cruise missile strikes were “reasons for concern”.

The incursions of two Russian fighters in Turkish airspace on Saturday and Sunday has brought the Syria conflict right up to NATO’s borders, testing the alliance’s ability to deter a newly assertive Russia without seeking direct confrontation.

While the United States has ruled out military cooperation with Russia in Syria, NATO defense ministers will discuss how to encourage Russia to help resolve the crisis, betting that Moscow also wants to avoid being bogged down in a long conflict.

For 40 years, NATO’s central task was deterring Russia in the east during the Cold War, but now, after a decade-long involvement in Afghanistan, the alliance is facing a reality-check close to home, with multiple threats near its borders.

Divisions between eastern NATO members, who want to keep the focus on the Ukraine crisis, and others who fret about Islamic State militants, risk hampering a unified response from the 28-nation North Atlantic alliance.

France and Britain, NATO’s two main European powers, are understood to be willing to see the alliance use its new 5,000-strong rapid reaction force beyond NATO borders, potentially helping stabilize post-conflict governments in Libya or Syria.

Others nations, including Poland and the Baltics, want a permanent NATO presence on their territory to act as a credible deterrent to any further effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain influence in former Soviet states.

(Additional reporting by Kate Holton in London; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Turkey wants meeting with Russian military to stop airspace violations

October 7, 2015

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The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it has proposed a meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials to be held in Ankara on avoiding future Russian infringements of Turkey’s airspace.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said Wednesday the Russian ambassador in Turkey was summoned for a third day for further discussions on two weekend incidents of air space violations by Russian jets.

The violations of the NATO-member’s airspace drew strong protest from the alliance. It prompted Turkey to scramble F-16s and summon the ambassador twice to lodge protests.

Bilgic said Turkey proposed the meeting to allow Russian military officials to explain the intrusions and clarify measures they intend to take.

He denied a Russian media report that Turkey has proposed setting up a “working group” on coordinating actions in Syria.

Related:

The Syrian crashes down near the Turkish border

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Syrian fighter plane crashes near the Turkish border — Turkey said they shot it down, March 2014. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

 

A Turkish F-16 jet takes off from Incirlik base in the southern city of Adana, on July 27. Turkey said Monday a Russian jet fighter violated its airspace with Syria over the weekend.
A Turkish F-16 jet takes off from Incirlik base in the southern city of Adana, on July 27. Turkey says Russian jet fighter violated its airspace.  Photo: Reuters
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.

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