MOSCOW: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has apologised to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over Ankara’s downing of a Russian military jet last year that shattered ties, the Kremlin said today.
“The head of the Turkish state in his message expressed his sympathy and deepest condolences to the family of the dead Russian pilot and said sorry,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He added that Erdogan said he wanted to do “everything possible for the restoration of the traditionally friendly relations between Turkey and Russia.”
The Kremlin then released a statement citing Erdogan as saying Ankara “never had the desire and the intention” to down the Russian jet.
“I want to once again express my sympathy and deep condolences to the family of the dead Russian pilot and I say sorry,” the statement quoted Erdogan as saying.
Turkey’s downing in November of the warplane on its border with Syria where Moscow is flying a bombing campaign in support of long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad sparked an unprecedented crisis in the two nations’ relations.
Ankara had argued that the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, but Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Ankara of a “planned provocation.”
According to the Kremlin, Erdogan also said that authorities were probing a Turkish national allegedly responsible for the downing of the jet.
Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported that Turkish militia fighter Alparslan Celik who Moscow had accused of killing pilot Oleg Peshkov as he parachuted to the ground after his plane was shot down was released from prison today.
In a sign that ties could be set to warm, a Turkish foreign ministry source told AFP that Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had accepted a Russian invitation to attend the Black Sea Economic Cooperation meeting in Sochi on July 1.