Turkey 'sorry for downing Russian jet'

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Putin and ErdoganImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) has received a personal apology from his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right), Moscow said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has apologised for the downing of a Russian military jet on the Turkey-Syria border, the Kremlin has said.

Mr Erdogan sent a message to President Vladimir Putin expressing "sympathy and deep condolences" to the family of the killed pilot, a spokesman said.

Turkey had angered Moscow by failing to apologise for the incident in November.

Russia responded by imposing trade sanctions and suspending Russian package tours to Turkey.

Mr Putin said at the time the restrictions would not be lifted until Russia received an apology.

Mr Erdogan spoke of his deep regret for what happened and said he wanted to restore relations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"The letter states, in particular, that Russia is a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations," Mr Peskov said.

Turkey has not yet commented on the Kremlin statement.

What happened

The Russian Su-24, an all-weather attack aircraft, was shot down by Turkish F-16s in the Turkey-Syria border area on 24 November.

The plane crashed in the mountainous Jabal Turkmen area of the Syrian province of Latakia, killing the pilot.

A Russian marine involved in a helicopter rescue attempt was killed when the helicopter came under fire.

The navigator in the jet, Capt Konstantin Murakhtin, survived the crash and was taken to Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Latakia by Syrian government forces.

Turkey said planes were warned 10 times during five minutes via an "emergency" channel and asked to change direction.

The Russian defence ministry insisted that the aircraft remained within Syria's borders throughout its mission and did not violate Turkish airspace and received no warnings.

Strained relations

The incident strained relations between Moscow and Ankara, with Mr Putin saying he had been "stabbed in the back".

The Russian leader also accused Mr Erdogan of collaborating with so-called Islamic State.

Russia hit Turkey with a raft of sanctions, banning import of Turkish foodstuffs and stopping Russian package holidays to Turkey.

Mr Erdogan offered to meet Mr Putin in person but Moscow refused and the pair have not spoken to each other since.

Russian sanctions

  • Ban on import of Turkish fruit and vegetables, poultry and salt
  • Ban on sale of Russian package holidays to Turkey
  • Suspension of construction projects involving Turkish firms in Russia
  • Restrictions on Turkish citizens working for companies registered in Russia
  • Suspension of new Black Sea pipeline that was to boost Russian gas exports to Turkey