Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a stern warning to Moscow on Saturday that it would be forced to “endure the consequences” if its jets continue to violate Turkish airspace, after Ankara reported a new border infringement incident by a Russian plane.
Turkey said another Russian warplane violated its airspace on Friday despite several warnings to turn away. The incident comes two months after Turkey shot down a Russian jet for crossing over its territory. The past incident seriously strained the close ties between the two countries and damaged a strong economic alliance.
“We regard this infringement which came despite all our warnings in Russian and in English as an effort by Russia to escalate the crisis in the region," Erdogan told reporters before departing on a Latin American tour. "If Russia continues the violations of Turkey's sovereign rights, it will be forced to endure the consequences."
Erdogan didn’t specify what the consequences might be.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, denied there was any violation of Turkish airspace and called the Turkish statements "unsubstantiated propaganda."
"These irresponsible steps do not help the Russian Federation, NATO-Russia relations or regional and global peace," Erdogan said. "On the contrary they are detrimental."
Turkey claims the Russian SU-34 crossed into Turkish airspace Friday. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to the ministry Friday evening to “strongly protest” the violation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also called on Russia "to act responsibly and to fully respect NATO airspace" but also urged "calm and de-escalation" of tensions between Moscow and Ankara.
"Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure that such violations do not happen again," he said in a statement. "NATO stands in solidarity with Turkey and supports the territorial integrity of our ally, Turkey."
There was no immediate comment on the incident from Moscow.
In November, Turkey shot down a Russian plane which violated its airspace near Syria, touching off a crisis between the two countries. It was the first time in more than half a century that a NATO nation had shot down a Russian plane.
Turkey brought down the Russian Su-24 bomber near the border with Syria on Nov. 24, saying it violated its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings. Russia insists the plane never entered Turkish airspace. One pilot and a Russian marine of the rescue party were killed in the incident.
The Russian military quickly sent missile systems to Syria and warned that it would fend off any threat to its aircraft. Moscow also punished Turkey by imposing an array of economic sanctions.
On Saturday, Stoltenberg said NATO had agreed in December to increase the presence of AWACS early warning planes over Turkey to increase the country's air defenses. He said the decision was taken before Friday's incident.
A separate incident involving a Russian SU-27 occurred Monday when it buzzed a U.S. Air Force spy plane over the Black Sea, a Defense Department official said.
The Pentagon is investigating the incident which took place in international airspace, Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.