Turkey reiterates would not have downed Russian jet had it known its origin

“If we had known that it [the downed jet] was Russian, such an incident would not have ever happened,” Kurtulmus said following the first Cabinet meeting held on Friday following the formation of a new Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

His statements echo President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s earlier statements in which he said the Turkish military would have acted differently if it had known it was a Russian jet.

Had we known it was a Russian plane we may have acted differently,” Erdogan said in an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on Thursday.

“But our pilots know the rules of engagement and have to do their duty to protect Turkish airspace,” he added.

Turkey says it shot down the jet due to the automatic enforcement of the rules of engagement over airspace violation after the jet flew into its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings.

Turkey’s downing of the Russian military jet Tuesday, the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane, has drawn a harsh response from Moscow. Russia has since restricted tourist travel, left Turkish trucks stranded at the border, confiscated large quantities of Turkish food imports and started preparing a raft of broader economic sanctions.

President Vladimir Putin has also ordered the deployment of the long-range S-400 air defense missile systems to a Russian air base in Syria just 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Turkey to help protect Russian warplanes, and the Russian military warned it would shoot down any aerial target that would pose a potential threat to its planes. The military also moved the missile cruiser Moskva closer to the shore to help cover Russian bombers om combat missions.

Erdogan refused to apologize for the plane’s downing, which Ankara said came after it flew for 17 seconds into Turkish airspace. At the same time, Erdogan said he has tried in vain to speak by phone to Putin to discuss the situation and expressed hope they could meet at the sidelines of a climate summit in Paris next Monday.

Russia’s agriculture ministry has already increased checks on food and agriculture imports from Turkey, in one of the first public moves to curb trade.

During Friday’s press conference, Kurtulmus also said the Cabinet was discussing which measures to take, but that he hoped that these would not last long.

“I couldn’t imagine that Russia would completely abandon its relations with Turkey over such an incident,” he told a news conference. “For us it’s impossible for Turkey to abandon its relations with Russia over such an incident.”

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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