Russia draws up retaliatory steps
Russia threatened economic retaliation against Turkey on Thursday and said it was still awaiting a reasonable explanation for the shooting down of its warplane, but Turkey dismissed the threats as “emotional” and “unfitting”.
In an escalating war of words, President Tayyip Erdogan responded to Russian accusations that Turkey has been buying oil and gas from Islamic State in Syria by accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, which include Moscow, of being the real source of the group’s financial and military power.
The shooting down of the jet by the Turkish air force on Tuesday was one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants.
World leaders have urged both sides to avoid escalation. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday ordered his government to draw up measures that would include freezing some joint investment projects and restricting food imports from Turkey.
Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Moscow could put limits on flights to and from Turkey, halt preparations for a joint free trade zone, and restrict high-profile projects including the TurkStream gas pipeline and a $20 billion nuclear power plant Russia is building in Turkey.
“We are strategic partners ... ‘Joint projects may be halted, ties could be cut’? Are such approaches fitting for politicians?,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.
“First the politicians and our militaries should sit down and talk about where errors were made and then focus on overcoming those errors on both sides. But instead, if we make emotional statements like this, that wouldn’t be right.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was still awaiting a reasonable answer from Ankara on why it downed the fighter jet. Moscow insists it never left Syrian air space, but Ankara says it crossed the border despite repeated warnings.
Erdogan said the Russian jet was shot down as an “automatic reaction” to the violation of Turkish air space, in line with standing orders given to the military.
Those instructions were a separate issue to disagreements with Russia over Syria policy, he said, adding Ankara would continue to support moderate rebels in Syria and Turkmen fighters battling President Assad’s forces.
He told CNN that Russia, not Turkey, should be the one to apologise for the incident.
Medvedev on Wednesday alleged that Turkish officials were benefiting from Islamic State oil sales, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was no secret that “terrorists” use Turkish territory.
“Shame on you. It’s clear where Turkey buys its oil and gas ... Those who claim we are buying oil from Daesh like this must prove their claims. Nobody can slander this country,” Erdogan said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Turkey's action infuriated Russia, but Moscow's response has been carefully calibrated. There is little sign it wants a military escalation, or to jeopardise its main objective in the region: to rally international support for its view on how the conflict in Syria should be resolved. But it clearly wants to punish Turkey economically. — Reuters
Turkey won’t apologise
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu vowed that Ankara would not apologise to Moscow over the downing of a warplane on the Syrian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier his country had not received any apology from Turkish leaders. "We don't need to apologise on an occasion that we are right," Cavusoglu said. "But we said on the phone yesterday (Wednesday) that we are sorry," he added, referring to a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.