Turkey’s efforts to ease tension backfire with harsh Russian response

Published 27.11.2015 14:21
Updated 27.11.2015 23:26
Turkey’s efforts to ease tension backfire with harsh Russian response

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday that Turkey does not want to escalate tensions with Russia over the Russian jet downed by Turkish military on Tuesday.

"Turkey did not down the Russian plane on purpose. It is nothing but an automatic reaction to a border breach, an exercise of the rules of engagement," Erdoğan said and called on Moscow to de-escalate the situation as the two countries have been neighbors for centuries with strong bilateral ties.

"There is a huge potential for cooperation between Turkey and Russia. We do not want this event to hurt this potential cooperation. Our countries are the ones that will be harmed by this. Let us not allow this to happen," Erdoğan said and added that a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is possible and he would like this to be face-to-face.

The Kremlin was quick to respond to Erdoğan's call made during his speech, saying Erdoğan's offer to meet with Putin has been rejected.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said on Friday that Russia is looking to suspend visa-free travel between Turkey and Russia.

President Erdoğan's remarks on Friday came after comments made by Putin on Thursday following a meeting with French President François Hollande in Moscow where he accused Turkey of buying oil from DAESH. "Turkey is not so dishonorable as to buy oil from terrorist organization," Erdoğan said, accusing Putin of not telling the truth.

"Turkey does not buy oil from DAESH. The U.S. Treasury documented that Russia and DAESH sell oil to the Syrian regime," Erdoğan said. Criticizing Russia's support of Assad's regime in Syria, President Erdoğan added that Moscow's siding with "a man [Assad] who conducts state terror" is not acceptable.

President Erdoğan called on Russia to prove its claims that Russian jets were flying over Syrian airspace, as Turkey did with radar images and sound records. "Otherwise, they will be guilty of a gross and unfair accusation," he said.

Speaking to France 24 TV channel on Thursday, Erdoğan said, "Turkey would have acted differently had it known the downed jet was Russian." The president also said he had called Putin on the day of the incident, but the Russian president has not returned his call.

During the interview, the president further touched upon Wednesday's attack on the Turkish embassy in Moscow by a group of protesters throwing stones, eggs and paint. Erdoğan said, "We are sorry that such an attack happened on the Turkish embassy in the Russian capital Moscow."

"Turkey's strategic partnership with Russia needs solidarity, not threats," Erdoğan said in another interview he gave to CNN on the same day, criticizing Russia's attitude about dismissing joint projects and added that such an attitude is not appropriate for politicians.

On Nov. 24, two Turkish F-16 fighter jets on an aerial patrol intercepted a Russian warplane within rules of engagement when it violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border.

The Russian warplane received 10 warnings about its violation within five minutes before it was shot down.

This was not the first time Russian warplanes had violated Turkish airspace. In October, Russian warplanes violated Turkish airspace after which Russian officials had apologized and pledged that such incidents would not reoccur in the future.

Putin claimed on Thursday that Russia had given prior information to the U.S. of the flight path of the plane downed by Turkey on the Syrian border.

"The American side knew about the location and time of our planes' flights, and we were hit exactly there and at that time," Putin said in a joint press conference with French counterpart Hollande in the Kremlin.

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