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Turkey summons Russian envoy over air violations

The presence of planes from both Russia and the U.S.-led coalition in Syrian airspace is 'fraught with danger,' the U.N. warns

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Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador to Ankara for a second time after a new violation of its air space by a Russian warplane close to the Syrian border, a Turkish foreign ministry official said on Tuesday.

"The Russian envoy was summoned for a second time yesterday (Monday) afternoon to strongly protest another violation of Turkish air space on Sunday," the official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

Turkey warned the Russian envoy that similar incidents should not happen again otherwise "Russia would be held responsible," the official said.

The violation on Sunday appears to have been the second in as many days after Turkey said its fighter jets intercepted a Russian warplane close to the Syrian border on Saturday, forcing it to turn back.

The Russian ambassador had also been summoned following Saturday's incident.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday warned that Ankara would activate military "rules of engagement" irrespective of who violates its airspace.

"Even if it is a flying bird it will be intercepted," Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish television.

The Turkish military said on Monday that two Turkish F-16 jets were harassed by an unidentified MIG-29 aircraft on the Syrian border on Sunday.

"Two F-16 jets were harassed by a MIG-29 plane -- whose nationality could not be identified -- for a total of five minutes and 40 seconds," the army said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear if the incidents on Sunday referred to by the army and the foreign ministry were the same episode or separate.

Russian warplanes have been flying over Syrian territory since Wednesday, conducting air strikes on what Moscow says are targets belonging to ISIS and other "terrorist" groups in the country's northern and central provinces.

The presence of planes from both Russia and the U.S.-led coalition in Syrian airspace is “fraught with danger,” the United Nations warned on Monday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric was speaking after Turkey protested to Moscow because its F-16 jets intercepted a Russian fighter that violated its airspace near the Syrian border at the weekend.

Two Turkish jets were also harassed by an unidentified MIG-29 on the Syrian border, Turkey’s army said.

“What we are seeing now is a lot of different countries and different coalitions operating in the skies above Syria,” Dujarric said.

“I think it creates a situation that is fraught with danger and very delicate as we had seen on the issue of the violation of airspace with Turkey.”

Dujarric stressed that “this really should refocus people’s attention to finding a political solution” to the brutal Syrian conflict, which has already killed more than 240,000 people and sent millions fleeing in 4.5 years of civil war.

“Whatever actions are taken against Daesh and others should be in conformity with international laws and international humanitarian laws,” Dujarric added, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Russia played down the incursion, saying one of its aircraft had briefly entered Turkish airspace as a result of “unfavorable weather conditions.”

At an emergency meeting, the NATO transatlantic military alliance warned of “extreme danger” of such violations and condemned the incursions.