No mistake, no accident but a deliberate action!


NATO fears Russian incursion into Turkish airspace…

Pre-ministerial briefing by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg - Brussels Headquarters - Oct.6, 2015

Pre-ministerial briefing by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – Brussels Headquarters – Oct.6, 2015

© photocredit

The violation of the Turkish air space just illustrates the importance of de-conflicting, at the same time violation of the air space is not about de-conflicting because that’s about actually moving into another air space. This is a serious violation of Turkish air space. Patriots… NATO deployed them to augment their defences against possible missile attacks from Syria, what we have seen now is something different. That’s a violation of the Turkish air space. This is unacceptable to violate of Turkey’s and NATO’s air space.

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NATO Defence Ministers will meet this Thursday. Our meeting comes at a decisive time for our security. We see the Middle East and North Africa in turmoil. Russia’s deployment of significant forces in Syria is of great concern.

Russian combat aircraft have violated Turkish airspace. This is unacceptable. That’s why I yesterday convened a special meeting of the North Atlantic Council. NATO allies expressed strong solidarity with Turkey. They condemned the Russian violations of NATO’s air space. I call on Russia to avoid escalating tensions with the Alliance. Russia must de-conflict its military activities in Syria.

I’m also concerned that Russia is not targeting ISIL, but instead attacking the Syrian opposition and civilians. I discussed the situation in Syria with Foreign Minister Lavrov in New York last week. I urge Russia to play a constructive and cooperative role in the fight against ISIL. And to strive for a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria.

We will look at our long-term adaptation. Ministers will also discuss the implications of Russia’s military activity, including its nuclear activities – and what it means for NATO. And we will look into how the Alliance should further adapt to the growing challenges and threats from the South.

Our enhanced NATO Response Force can already deploy to the South quickly.

But we will consider other capabilities needed to deal with the threats we face from the South.

It has been a year since I took up my post. We have made tremendous progress on putting our Readiness Action Plan into place. This is the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. All Allies are making substantial contributions to strengthen our shared security.

Q: My first question is on the incidents in Kunduz, has NATO already been able to determine whether US Forces actually did bombard the hospital of Medecins Sans Frontieres and what kind of consequences would NATO anticipate that the US would take against its forces? Also if this will precipitate in any kind of way a decision by allies whether to continue presence of the ground after 2016 or not? And my second question is on Syria, is NATO already satisfied with the explanations that Russia has already given on the incidents of the violating the Turkish air space? And my quick final question if I may Secretary General, it’s on the south, security on the south flank of the NATO, what other capabilities is NATO considering to deploy in the area? We understand that one of the options could be maritime assets in the Mediterranean but we also hear that this is a particularly challenging capacity to actually withhold and withstand in the south.

JENS STOLTENBERG: This is a consequence of the increased Russian military presence in Syria and a minimum requirement is that Russia is able to de-conflict with the ongoing coalition fighting ISIL and also of course respect the borders of Turkey including of course the air space of Turkey which also is NATO air space. And for us this doesn’t look as an accident, this is a serious violation of the air space and actually there were two violations during the weekend. So that just adds to the fact that this doesn’t look like an accident, this, the, the violation lasted for, also for a long time compared to previous violations of air space we have seen other places in Europe and therefore we take this very serious. Anyway it’s unacceptable to violate the air space of, of another country and this is exactly what we were afraid of, that incidents, accidents may create dangerous situations and therefore it is also important to make sure that this doesn’t happen again and that’s also the reason why we sent this very clear signal. We have lines of military to military communication between NATO and Russia and I think it will be natural that we use these lines also to communicate between the military authorities how serious we regard this violation of Turkish air space. The last question was on the south. First of all I would like to underline that the increased readiness, the increased preparedness, the doubling of the size of the NATO Response Force is not only a response to the challenges we see to the east with a more assertive Russia but it’s also very relevant to the challenges we see to the south. So increased preparedness, increased readiness, the High Readiness Joint Task Force or the Spearhead Force is something we of course can also deploy, use in the south if and when, if needed. So that’s also response to the south. Second we are now working on, as you mentioned, naval presence, naval forces because that’s very relevant for the south. And third I think that better situational awareness, better surveillance is key especially when we speak about all the turmoil, all the uncertainty we see to the south of the alliance. So when we now are in the process of deploying new surveillance drones which are going to be based in Sigonella in Italy then that’s very relevant for the south because new allied ground surveillance systems or the surveillance drones will increase very much our capability to understand, to see, to have situational awareness and that is of course important also for the south.

Q: Secretary General I wondered, a follow up, yesterday in the statement from, that you had made there was a request for, that Russia immediately explain its violations. Have they come to you with anything further than we’ve heard publicly?

JENS STOLTENBERG: No, not any real explanation more than what we have seen, also in the media. But as I said I find it very natural, or for me it’s very natural if that, that NATO uses the military to military lines of communications, which we have kept in place exactly to address incidents like this. And this was also discussed among the allies yesterday because we have kept in place direct lines of communication between NATO military authorities and their counterparts in Russia. And I think it’s important that we use these lines to express our concern, to go through how we regard the seriousness of the violations of the Turkish air space and also to convey a very strong message also on the military level that this is something which should not happen again. And then we’ve also provided the Russians the opportunity to give an explanation directly to our military authorities.

Q: Mr. Secretary General in 2012 there was a tragic incident when a Turkish air jet was shot down in the Syrian air space, during this incident I quote the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul has said, it is routine for jet fighter to sometimes fly in and over national borders. My question is, is it routine for NATO jets to fight, to fly in and over national borders and not to other countries air jets? And second question, we start to hear a lot about moderate Syrian opposition last days, could you please inform us who is the leader of this opposition? What are we talking about?

JENS STOLTENBERG: It is not the routine of any NATO country to violate the air space of other countries and I think it’s extremely important that all nations understand the importance of respecting borders and also of course air space of other countries. I think that the situation in Syria is very fragile, there are many different groups, the important thing for the coalition which is fighting ISIL is to attack ISIL. NATO is, all NATO allies participate in that coalition, contribute to the coalition in different ways and I am concerned about, that we see that the Russian air forces are not mainly attacking ISIL but other opposition groups including those who are fighting ISIL and, and also that many civilian lives have been lost.

Q: Mr. Secretary General you said it, the Russian violation was not an accident, the statements from Moscow they try to portray it as incidental and accidental. What makes you sure that it wasn’t an accident? Did the Russian planes lock their radar on Turkish planes?

JENS STOLTENBERG: What I said is that it doesn’t look like an accident and that we have also have seen two of them, two violations of Turkish air space during the weekend. Whether the Russian planes locked their fire control radars on the Turkish planes is something I cannot comment on. We base our assessment on the intelligence we receive, but the information, the intelligence we have received indicates or provides me with reasons to say that I, it doesn’t look like an accident what we saw in Turkey during the weekend.

Q: Can I ask you about the deployment of the patriot missiles please? They’re being withdrawn at the moment, what is the position on the possible renewal of that deployment? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: We, we deployed the patriots to, to Turkey to augment their defences against possible missile attacks from Syria, and, and what we have seen now is something different. That’s a violation of the Turkish air space. We are constantly reviewing the security situation and we will also take decisions accordingly. And of course the Russian actions in Syria and also the violations of Turkish air space will be part or will be factored into those assessments. The patriot mission is renewed on an annual basis, the current mandate runs until the end of this year and we are now in dialogue with Turkey and in dialogue with different allies to see what we will do, what kind of presence that may be there for the next year but no decision has been taken so far.

Q: Secretary General, thank you. Two questions, one was I wondered if you had any sense of what Russia’s motives might have been if this wasn’t an accident? Could it just be to show NATO that, for instance Syrian air space belongs now to Russia? And secondly you’ve talked about the need for dialogue, is there any possibility of convening a council or enact with Russia to discuss this?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I will not speculate on the motives. I would just reiterate or restate that this is a serious violation of Turkish air space, it should not happen again. And, and NATO has expressed strong solidarity with Turkey and it also underlines that the increased Russian presence in Syria gives reasons for concern, both because we have seen the violation of Turkish air space but also because we have seen that the planes and the air force of Russia has not mainly targeted ISIL but they have, they have attacked other opposition groups and also many civilians have lost their lives. The other was the NATO-Russia Council, there has been no decision to convene a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. There has been some meetings, I think it’s two meetings, after the crisis in Ukraine started. There have been some meetings of other, after the crisis in Ukraine started. Whether there’s going to be a meeting in the foreseeable future is not, no decision has been taken so far. But what, but as I already told you we have other ways of communicating with Russians. On the political level but also on the military level with the military lines of communications and these are lines we can use in connection with incidents like the one we saw in Turkey.

Q: You keep saying that you can use these lines of communication, have you? Has there been any communication other than in the media at this point to the Russian Government to demand this explanation? how does the Russian build up, you think, hinder the coalition, the counter ISIS coalition’s actions on the ground? It seems to me there hasn’t been a de-confliction, if that’s a word? I don’t know what the noun is for that, by Russia to this point,

JENS STOLTENBERG: I welcome that there has been contacts between the US and Russia trying to, because this is a US led coalition fighting ISIL, trying to establish means or mechanisms to de-conflict and the point with de-confliction is to avoid incidents, accidents between different planes from different nations operating in the same air space. I think the US has to answer how far they have been able to get in the dialogue with Russia, NATO is not part of that dialogue because this is not a NATO operation. But I very much understand the need for establishing systems, ways to communicate, to de-conflict, to avoid incidents and accidents. And the violation of the Turkish air space just illustrates the importance of de-conflicting, at the same time violation of the air space is not about de-conflicting because that’s about actually moving into another air space. And so that’s, that’s about respecting borders and that should be something which is obvious, we don’t need to establish new mechanisms to make sure or we should not be, there is no need to establish new mechanisms to make sure that countries should respect borders because that should be obvious. But we speak more about de-conflicting activity inside the Syrian air space.

First of all we, this happened during the weekend and today it’s Tuesday, but what we have done is to convey a very strong message partly by, through my statement and partly through the statement by the North Atlantic Council. I’m certain that the Russians have read that statement. Second I stated that I believe it’s natural to use the military lines of communication and, and then this is an issue which we already discussed and then we have to understand that the lines of communications which we have established with the Russians are in place just, or exactly to address incidents like the one we saw in Turkey during the weekend. These lines have been there for years, so.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, how significant is the presence of Russian forces inside Syria? Does NATO have estimations of the magnitude of this presence? Whether we are talking about hundred, thousand people inside the country?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I will not go into any specific numbers but I can confirm that we have seen a substantial build-up of Russian forces in Syria. Air forces, air defences but also then ground troops in connection with the air base they have and we also see increased naval presence of Russian ships, naval capabilities outside Syria or the eastern part of the Mediterranean. So there has been a substantial military build-up of Russia with many different kinds of capabilities, forces, over the last weeks. [Full Transcript]

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