Saturday 05 December 2015

Erdogan warns Russia not to 'play with fire'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Russia not to “play with fire” amid ongoing tensions between the two countries over Ankara’s recent downing of a Russian military aircraft over Syrian skies.

In an address to his supporters on Friday, Erdogan criticized Moscow for backing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as Russia's anti-terror air raids against the militant groups operating in the Arab state, claiming such policies show Russia is “playing with fire.”

“We very sincerely recommend to Russia not to play with fire,” said Erdogan adding, however, that Ankara does not want its ties with Moscow to “suffer harm in any way.”

The Turkish president also said he may hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a climate change summit that is to be held in Paris, France, next week.

Earlier on Friday, Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov said the Russian head of state had refused to contact Erdogan.

'A line crossed'

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Turkey had "crossed a line" by shooting down the Russian fighter jet.

"We believe that the Turkish leadership has crossed the line of what is acceptable," said Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Muallem in Moscow.

The Russian top diplomat warned that the incident could seriously undermine Turkey’s interests both inside the country and in the Middle East.

He said Ankara “risks putting Turkey in a most severe situation, with respect to both its long-term national interests and the situation in the region.”

Moscow-Ankara ties has sharply soured after Turkey shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M inside Syria on Tuesday. The fighter jet, which was on an anti-terror mission, crashed well within Syrian territory after coming under attack.

Putin has described the move a “stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists.”

Ankara has so far refused to apologize over the incident, saying it is Moscow that should regret its violation of Turkey’s airspace, an allegation the Kremlin has strongly rejected.

Erdogan on Thursday defended the downing of the Russian jet as a necessary step to protect the country’s sovereignty, saying the Turkish military’s move was “an automatic enforcement of rules of engagement,” and that it was not aware the aircraft, which he claimed had violated Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, was Russian.

Putin also said on the same day that Ankara continues to offer “unintelligible explanations and statements” instead of apologizing and making sure such incidents would not happen again.

In a retaliatory move, Russia has begun to impose restrictions on economic ties with Turkey, while suspending all military contacts with Ankara.

The chairman of the Russian State Duma Sergey Naryshkin said on Thursday that Russia’s response to Turkey’s move “will surely follow, in line with international law,” adding that the response could be a military one.

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