#Turkey’s President says #Russian response to downed jet “emotional” and “unfitting”
Ankara,Turkey ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday dismissed “emotional” and “unfitting” suggestions that projects with Russia could be canceled following Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.
In an escalating war of words, he 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 downing of the jet on Tuesday was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member and Russia for half a century, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants in Syria.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered his government on Thursday to draw up measures that would include freezing some joint investment projects and restricting food imports from 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 to local officials in the capital 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.”
Erdogan said the Russian jet was shot down on Tuesday as an “automatic reaction” to the violation of Turkish air space, in line with standing instructions 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 Bashar al-Assad.
Russia insists its jet never left Syrian air space.
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.
“If you are seeking the source of weaponry and financial power of Daesh, the first place to look is the Assad regime and countries that act with it,” he said.
Turkey releases recording of ‘warnings’ to Russian plane
Turkey has released audio recordings of what it says are the Turkish military’s repeated warnings to the pilot of a Russian warplane before it was shot down at the border with Syria — audio that grows increasingly more agitated.
The recordings, made available to the Associated Press on Thursday, indicate that the plane was warned several times Tuesday that it was approaching Turkey’s airspace and that it was asked to change course.
Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 bomber on Tuesday, insisting the aircraft had violated its airspace despite repeated warnings. It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member had shot down a Russian plane.
A surviving crew member of the plane has denied that his jet veered into Turkey’s airspace and rejected Turkey’s claim that it had issued repeated warnings to the Russian crew.
The downing prompted dueling comments Thursday from the two countries’ leaders. While Russian President Vladimir Putin complained that Turkey still hadn’t apologized for downing the plane or given assurances that “the culprits of this crime” will be punished, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in no mood to apologize.
Putin Says Turkey Pushing Ties to Dead-End as Russia Acts on Jet
President Vladimir Putin accused Turkey of pushing relations to a dead-end as Russia began trade retaliation over the downing of its warplane in Syria.
Turkey hasn’t apologized for its “treacherous stab in the back” or offered compensation after shooting down the jet, Putin said Thursday in Moscow at a meeting with new ambassadors to Russia. “It seems that the Turkish government is deliberately pushing Russian-Turkish relations into deadlock. We regret that,” he said.
Agricultural products from Turkey will be subjected to additional border checks and laboratory controls after 15 percent of Turkish goods were found to breach Russian safety requirements, Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. Turkish transport groups reported that hundreds of trucks were being held up at the Russian border.
Putin spoke as he prepares to meet with French leader Francois Hollande in Moscow on Thursday for talks on combating Islamic State. Hollande is seeking to forge an alliance with Russia and the U.S. against Islamic State after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.
Putin accused Turkey of being “accomplices of terrorism” for shooting down the Russian jet on Tuesday, which had been on a bombing mission in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan maintained the jet was shot down after failing to heed multiple warnings and crossing into his nation’s airspace, while saying that “we certainly don’t have any idea to escalate this issue.”
There have been about 40 cases of banned and harmful substances found in Turkish animal products this year, Tkachev said. Excessive traces of pesticides, nitrates and nitrites have also been registered in fruits and vegetables, according to the statement.
Russia isn’t imposing an embargo on Turkish products, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Thursday. Controls on goods are being tightened amid an increased risk of extremism, he said.
About 200 Turkish trucks and other vehicles carrying goods including machinery, poultry and agricultural products from Turkey have been waiting since Wednesday at two Russian border crossings in Ukraine and one in Georgia, Fatih Sener, executive chairman of Turkey’s International Transporters Association, said by phone Thursday.
Russian officials told drivers they’ll make a “full assessment” of goods in the vehicles, though they haven’t started yet, and “no such thing ever happened with Russia before,” Sener said. “We hope it’s temporary” and it’s wrong to involve trade in a political conflict because it would “hurt the competitiveness of both countries,” he said.
About 29 vehicles are stranded at the Larsi customs point on Georgia’s border with Russia and many others have diverted to Azerbaijan after being turned away by Russian officials, Khatia Moistrapishvili, an official at the Georgian Revenue Service, said by phone in Tbilisi on Thursday.
More than 800kg (1,764lbs) of Turkish food has been removed from sale — including meat, confectionery, fruit and nuts — as substandard, Russia’s Rospotrebnadzor state consumer watchdog said in a website statement Thursday. Turkish detergents and light industrial goods are also failing to comply with Russian quality standards, it said.
Trade between the two countries totalled $18.1 billion in the first nine months of this year, down 23.6 percent on the same period in 2014, including $3.1 billion of imports to Russia from Turkey. The action against Turkish goods follows a call by Russia’s Federal Tourism Agency late Tuesday for tour operators to halt sales of trips to Turkey, citing the risk of terrorism in a country visited by millions of Russian tourists every year.
While Putin has ruled out military retaliation against Turkey, a NATO member, the first direct clash between foreign powers embroiled in the Syrian civil war has highlighted dangers the conflict could spiral into a broader one since Russia began air attacks there Sept. 30 in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
Hollande’s mission to Moscow has been complicated by the plane incident as he seeks to unite forces against Islamic State following the terrorist attacks in Paris Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. He said at talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday that he’ll press Putin to refocus strikes on Islamic State.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow said Thursday that Russia’s decision to deploy an S-400 air-defense system to protect aircraft at the base its forces use in Syria’s Latakia complicates the situation, according to the Interfax news service. Islamic State doesn’t have an air force and the embassy said it hoped the anti-aircraft system won’t target the U.S.-led coalition that’s also bombing the terrorist group in Syria, Interfax reported.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday added to the calls for calm from the U.S. and France, warning in Berlin that the downing of the Russian bomber “has further heightened the situation in Syria.” Obama said Tuesday that he’ll make it a “top priority” to prevent the Turkey-Russia standoff from worsening, and focus instead on destroying jihadist groups.
Azerbaijan is ready to help defuse tensions between Russia and Turkey, Novruz Mammadov, President Ilham Aliyev’s foreign policy aide, said on Facebook on Thursday, ahead of a visit to Baku by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Turkey is our closest ally. Russia, too, is a very close and friendly country,” Mammadov said. “Azerbaijan doesn’t want to see any confrontation between our two friends.”
Russia plans 2016 military exercises with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in the Caspian Sea, state-run RIA Novosti reported Thursday, citing the Defense Ministry in Moscow.