Faced With Sanctions, Turkey Apologizes for Shooting Russian Jet

The issue had escalated into a full blown international crisis as NATO powers led by the US took on Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the nuclear summit in Washington DC. (Photo: Reuters)

Opening the way for Russia to lift economic sanctions, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has apologized to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over last year’s shooting down of a Russian air force jet by Turkey’s military, the Kremlin said on Monday.

The incident which took place in November last year, saw a Russian jet shot down with its pilot, while it took part in the Kremlin’s military campaign in Syria.

The Kremlin responded to the downing of the plane by slapping trade restrictions on Ankara, including halting work on a pipeline to ship Russian gas to Europe via Turkey, and advising Russian tourists to avoid Turkish resorts.

Putin had said those measures would only be lifted if Erdogan personally issued an apology, which, according to a statement by the Kremlin, was issued on Monday.

I want to once again express my sympathy and deep condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who died and I say: I’m sorry.
Erdogan (as quoted by The Kremlin)

Standoff Between Nato and Russia

This apology is in stark contrast to Turkey’s stand in November. At the time, Ankara said it acted lawfully because the plane had crossed into Turkish air space; a claim that Moscow denied.

We are making a clear call to the Russian Federation not to violate Turkish airspace, which is also NATO airspace. We are emphasising once again that the unwanted consequences of such irresponsible behaviour will belong fully to the Russian Federation. Previous incidents have shown how dangerous such behaviour is.
Statement, Turkey Foreign Ministry
File photo: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)
File photo: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP)

The issue had escalated into a full blown International crisis as NATO powers, led by the US at the time, alleged that the shoot-down underscored an “ongoing problem” with Russia’s military operations in Syria.

President Putin responded by calling it as a stab in the back delivered by “accomplices of terrorists”

Today’s loss is linked to a stab in the back delivered to us by accomplices of terrorists. I cannot qualify what happened today as anything else.

Turkey’s efforts to mend damaged ties come amidst the Middle East’s polarization by Syria’s civil war, the rise of the Islamic State, increased threat to regional security, and strained relations with Europe and the United States.

In Monday’s statement, the Kremlin has said that Putin had received a letter from Erdogan’s office “in which the Turkish leader expressed his desire to resolve the situation connected to the downing of a Russian military aircraft”.

The letter states, in particular, that Russia is a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations.
The Kremlin’s Statement

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