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Russia violation of Turkey airspace likely not accidental: US official

Russia’s violation of Turkish airspace over the Syrian border was likely deliberate, a senior US defence official said Monday while expressing concern over the incident.

NATO member Turkey protested to Russia after its F-16 jets intercepted a Russian fighter plane that violated its air space near the Syrian border over the weekend, forcing it to turn back.

“I don’t believe that this was an accident,” the defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This just affirms our deep concern over what they are doing. It continues to call into question their intent and certainly raises questions about basic self-conduct (and) professional behaviour in the skies.”

The official said the United States was having “urgent conversations” with the Turks and NATO partners in Brussels.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and other military officials are in Spain at the start of a five-day trip to Europe that includes a NATO ministerial summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The Pentagon and Russia last week held talks about how to avoid accidents in the skies over Syria as both Moscow and the US-led coalition carry out air strikes in the war-ravaged nation.

Given the intent of those talks to avoid mishaps, US military officials are especially alarmed about the Turkey incident.

“This is exactly the type of non-professional conduct that we were hoping to avoid,” the official said.