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NATO calls on Russia to cease Syria military strikes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo grab from footage on Russian Defense Ministry official web site on October 5, 2015 shows an attack by a Russian fighter jet in Syria. (Photo by AP)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has called on Russia to stop its anti-Daesh air campaign in Syria after Russian fighter jet strayed into Turkey’s airspace.

"Allies call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians,” NATO said Monday in a statement following an emergency meeting on the Syria crisis at its Brussels headquarters.

The military alliance also expressed its deep concern over Russia's military presence in Syria.

It said Russia should focus on its efforts on fighting Daesh militants and “to promote a solution to the conflict through a political transition.”

The statement came one day after officials in Turkey, a NATO member, reported the violation of the country’s airspace by Russian fighter jets.

The Russian Defense Ministry has admitted the mistake, saying that bad weather had caused the incident.

The NATO statement said Russia’s military action in Syria had reached a “more dangerous level," saying the incursions into Turkish airspace signal “irresponsible behavior” from the side of Moscow.

It said Moscow must “cease and desist and immediately explain these violations,” adding that Russia’s Su-30 and Su-24 aircraft, which reportedly violated Turkish airspace in southern Hatay region, ignored “Turkish authorities' clear, timely and repeated warnings.”

“In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace,” the statement said, adding, “The security of the Alliance is indivisible, and Allies stand in strong solidarity with Turkey.”

Since Wednesday, Russia has been attacking positions of militants fighting against the Syrian government in various parts of the Arab country. The attacks have mainly targeted Daesh group in northeast Syria with military officials in Moscow saying they have managed to destroy several Daesh command posts, ammunition depots and training camps.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the country's air force carried out 15 sorties hitting ten Daesh targets on Monday. An estimated 20 tanks were destroyed in the Tadmur district of Homs Province, the ministry said. Artillery positions were also struck, with three rocket systems and a munitions warehouse destroyed.

The United States and allies claim that Russia is deliberately attacking other militant groups that are supported by the  West, a claim Moscow denies, saying it chooses its targets based on intelligence provided by the Syrian military. 

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