Turkey ‘unwilling to apologize’ to Russia: Putin aide

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to contact Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Turkey earlier this week shot down a Russian warplane, an aide said, while Erdogan stated his wish to meet his Putin “face-to-face” soon.

The two countries are currently engaged in a war of words over the downing of the jet on Tuesday, one of the most serious incidents between a NATO member and Russia to date.

“We see Turkey’s unwillingness to simply apologize for the incident with the plane,” President aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday.

Yet Erdogan said that he would “like to meet him [Putin] face to face on Monday,” Reuters reported.

The two leaders are both expected to attend a climate conference in Paris on Nov. 30.

Turkey says the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings – a charge Russia denies, accusing Ankara of a “planned provocation.”

Meanwhile on Friday, Ankara “temporarily” suspended air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Syria, local media reported.

Russia on Thursday vowed to carry out broad retaliatory measures against Turkey’s economy.

Turkey, a member of a U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, has halted air raids against the group in Syria in order to avoid any further crises, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

“Both sides agreed to act cautiously until they re-establish dialogue channels to reduce tensions,” the paper said, citing security sources.

Meanwhile, Russia threatened economic retaliation against Turkey, but Ankara dismissed the threats as “emotional” and “unfitting.”

President Erdogan responded to Russian accusations that Turkey has been buying oil and gas from ISIS 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.

Appeals for calm

World leaders have urged both sides to avoid escalation. In an apparent attempt to cool the dispute – and appeal to Western countries – Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a letter to Britain’s Times newspaper that Ankara would work with its allies and Russia to “calm tensions.”

Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev 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.

Russia’s defense ministry meanwhile said it had suspended all cooperation with the Turkish military, including a hotline set up to share information on Russian air strikes in Syria, the TASS news agency reported.

Tourism and agriculture halt

The head of Russia’s tourism agency, Rostourism, said cooperation with Turkey would “obviously” be halted. At least two large Russian tour operators had already said they would stop selling packages to Turkey after Russian officials advised holidaymakers against traveling to its resorts.

Russians are second only to Germans in terms of the numbers visiting Turkey, bringing in an estimated $4 billion a year in tourism revenues, which Turkey needs to help fund its gaping current account deficit.

Medvedev meanwhile said Russia may impose restrictions on food imports within days, having already increased checks of Turkish agriculture products, its first public move to curb trade.

Moscow banned most Western food imports in 2014 when Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis, leading to supply disruptions as retailers had to find new suppliers and galloping inflation.


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