The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to apologise for downing a Russian fighter jet and lashed out at “shameful” accusations that Turkey was in cahoots with Isis jihadists.
Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart, complained he had received no apology from Turkey nor any offer “to make up for the damages” following the shooting down an SU-24 plane which was accused of crossing into Turkish airspace. Speaking as his armed forces released more recordings purportedly warning the jet before opening fire, Mr Erdogan retorted that “those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologise”.
He later struck a more measured tone, suggesting “maybe we would have warned it differently” if Turkey had known it was a Russian plane.
The Turkish President, who had previously remained cordial with Mr Putin despite major differences over Syria, revealed that the Russian President had refused to take his phone call after the incident on Tuesday morning, in a sign of how badly their relationship has suffered.
The downing of the jet was the first acknowledged attack on a Russian military aircraft by a Nato member since the start of the Cold War. The fallout threatens to thwart international efforts to end the conflict in Syria and combat the threat from Isis.
Russia has lost no time in retaliating for the downing of its plane, which led to the death of one of its two pilots at the hands of Syrian rebels. The Russian military said that a S-400 missile defence system, with a range of 250 miles, had arrived at its Syrian air base 30 miles from the Turkish border.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, made clear that he was willing to hit Russian-Turkish trade links worth $30bn (£20bn). He ordered restrictions on Turkish companies and imports, and Russia has warned citizens not to go on holiday to Turkey, which has in the past hosted four million Russian tourists a year. Meanwhile, food imports faced heightened controls.
Gennady Onishchenko, an adviser to the Prime Minister, said that “every Turkish tomato bought … at the market is a contribution toward the next rocket to be fired at our guys”, according to the news agency Ria Novosti.
While the two countries are bound by a major gas supply contract, the Russian Economy Minister did not rule out abandoning plans for a new Black Sea gas pipeline and the $20bn Akkuyu nuclear plant on Turkey’s south coast.
Moscow also appears to have sought revenge by intensifying its bombing campaign against rebels inside Syria. Monitoring groups reported heavy bombardment of a key road near the Bab al-Salameh border crossing near Turkey. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the planes conducting the attacks were Russian.
Mr Erdogan claimed that Russia was using the pretext of fighting Isis as an excuse to prop up Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with attacks on other rebel fighters. He accused Russia of killing Turkey’s “kinsmen” from the Turkmen ethnic group during clashes with Syrian government forces.
He hit back at claims that Turkish officials profited financially from the sale of oil from Isis-held territory, telling his critics: “Shame on you.”
In a claim likely to raise eyebrows not only in Moscow but also in Washington, Mr Erodogan insisted that Turkey’s fight against jihadists was “undisputed”. Western diplomats believe that, at best, Turkey for too long turned a blind eye to jihadist fighters using Turkey as a conduit for fighters and weapons.
Mr Putin has pledged to “co-operate” in the battle against Isis with the French President François Hollande as he welcomed him for talks at the Kremlin in the wake of terror attacks in Paris. Mr Hollande said that all sides had to create a “broad coalition” to destroy Isis and seek a political solution in Syria. However, hopes of any formal coalition between Moscow and the West appeared thin.
The blowing up of a Russian airliner earlier this month seemed to have brought Russian and Western interests closer in line. The shooting down of the Russian plane by Turkey appeared to have separated them again.
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