Erdogan Refuses to Apologize, Denies ISIS Support
Following Turkey’s downing of a Russian military jet on Nov. 24, relations between the two countries are tense, with Russia considering imposing severe economic sanctions on Turkey. Turkish warplanes shot down a Su-24 Russian military aircraft near the border with Syria on Tues., Nov. 24, in what Russian President Vladimir Putin described as a “stab in the back” carried out by “accomplices of terrorists.”
Putin claimed the aircraft was hit by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s while it was flying over Syrian territory. Turkish authorities said the plane was engaged after several warnings alerted the pilots that they were violating Turkey’s airspace. Following the attack, Putin said the incident will have “serious consequences” for Russian-Turkish relations.
Moscow has since moved to impose a number of economic sanctions on Ankara, which could include restrictions on travel and imports, as well as abandoning the TurkStream pipeline project and a $20 billion nuclear power deal, according to reports. Meanwhile, on Nov. 27, 39 Turkish businessmen were arrested in Russia for visa violations. Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered members of his government to draft a list of possible economic measures against Turkey.
Erdogan: We Will Not Apologize
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an exclusive interview with CNN on Thursday, said Turkey will not apologize for the incident.
“I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us… Those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they simply fulfilled their duties, which consisted of responding to…violations of the rules of engagement. I think this is the essence,” he said during the interview.
In a meeting with community leaders in Ankara on the same day, Erdogan said, “If the same violation occurs today, Turkey has to react the same way.”
Erdogan said he was infuriated by Putin’s claim that Turkey buys oil from the Islamic State. He insisted that his country is fighting the Islamic State, and said that one needed proof to make such an accusation; otherwise, “You are a slanderer.”
Russian Pilot Says No Warnings Were Given
The Russian crew ejected before the jet crashed in Syria’s Latakia province. As the two Russian pilots descended by parachute, one was shot dead by Turkmen forces, Reuters reported, citing a deputy commander of a Turkmen brigade in Syria. “Both of the pilots were dead on retrieval. Our comrades opened fire into the air and they died in the air,” Alpaslan Celik, a deputy commander of a Syrian Turkmen brigade, said.
It was later revealed that Russian navigator Captain Konstantin V. Murakhtin, one of the two who parachuted out of the warplane, was rescued by special forces troops who negotiated his release from insurgents who were holding him. According to the New York Times, Murakhtin said that there had been no warnings before the missile slammed into the aircraft. “There were no warnings from either the radio channel or visually, there was no contact at all,” he told Interfax news from the Russian air base outside Latakia.
Shortly following the incident, Russia deployed a missile cruiser near Latakia and said it was ready to take down any aerial targets that threaten its airbase near the city.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday that his government did not wish to fuel tensions with Russia. “We have no intention to strain (ties) with the Russian Federation,” Davutoglu told ruling party members in parliament. “Russia is our friend and our neighbor,” Davutoglu was quoted as saying.
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused Turkey of a “planned provocation” that would cause Moscow to seriously consider “reassessing its relations with Ankara,” reported the UK’s Telegraph. Lavrov also canceled his planned visit to Istanbul in the wake of the recent incident. The visit was to take place on Nov. 25.
Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian condemned Turkey’s downing of the warplane, saying that it damages international efforts to defeat terrorist groups operating in Syria. According to RFE/RL’s Armenian service Azatutyun.am, Ohanyan also urged the international community to prevent a further escalation of Russian-Turkish tensions, which analysts believe could lead to major security risks for Armenia.
“I think that at a time when the international community is concentrating its efforts on a fight against international terrorism, it can be said that it was a direct blow to those efforts,” Ohanyan said.
A day after the downing of the warplane, Russian lawmaker Sergei Mironov said that his opposition Just Russia Party had submitted a bill to parliament on holding anyone who denies the Armenian Genocide accountable, reported Reuters. “We have just submitted a bill on responsibility for failure to acknowledge the fact of a genocide of Armenians by Turkey in 1915,” Mironov said in a tweet on Wednesday. Russia is among the many countries that have recognized the mass killings of Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as genocide.