Russia: Mending Turkey ties ‘not a matter of few days’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed regret over the downing of a Russian military plane last year

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It would take more than a few days to mend Russia’s relations with Ankara, the Kremlin said on Tuesday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed regret over the downing of a Russian military plane last year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said an apology from Erdogan was the condition for repairing relations between the two countries, which were poisoned when the Russian jet was shot down near the Syrian-Turkish border in November.

After writing to Putin to voice his regret over the incident, Erdogan said he now believed that Ankara would normalize relations with Moscow “rapidly.”

The Kremlin was more cautious on Tuesday.

“One should not think it possible to normalize everything within a few days, but work in this direction will continue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.

“President Putin has expressed more than once his willingness to uphold good relations with Turkey and the Turkish people,” Peskov said. “Now a very important step has been made in this respect.”

Putin and Erdogan will hold a telephone conversation at Moscow’s initiative on Wednesday, Peskov said.

Ankara said it shot down the plane because it entered Turkish airspace, an allegation Moscow denies. The Russian pilot ejected from the plane but was killed by gunfire from rebels on the ground in Syria as he parachuted down to earth.

Moscow, which imposed economic sanctions on Ankara over the downed plane, had said that apart from official apologies it also wanted Turkey to pay compensation for the incident.

However, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday that Turkey would not pay compensation to Russia over the downing of the plane.

Yildirim also told reporters in parliament that legal proceedings were underway against an individual allegedly responsible for the killing of the Russian pilot.

Meanwhile, Yildirim had previously said: “We have said that if necessary we are ready to pay compensation.”

He was speaking hours after Erdogan reached out a conciliatory hand to Moscow over the incident that shattered ties between the two nations.

“I think we have reached an understanding on this affair. We will put this incident behind us and continue on our path,” Yildirim said.
Turkey had previously refused to apologize over the incident, insisting the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings.

Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Turkey of a “planned provocation”.

Ankara is backing rebels fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, while Moscow is one of his last remaining allies.

Ankara went on a diplomatic charm offensive on Monday as it seeks to shore up its influence in the region, hailing a deal with Israel to restore ties as well as mending fences with Russia.

Erdogan said at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast on Monday night that he hoped for a “quick” normalization in ties with Moscow.

Earlier Monday, the Kremlin said Erdogan had apologized to Putin over Ankara’s downing of the jet on Turkey’s border with Syria.

Turkish officials said however that Erdogan had written to Putin to “express his regrets” and did not explicitly confirm he had said sorry.

The twin breakthroughs with Russia and Israel come as Turkey moves back towards a policy known as “zero problems with neighbors” following a string of diplomatic crises and with its foe Assad still in power in Syria.

(With Reuters, AFP)

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