Istanbul – Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ankara shot down the Russian warplane last week to protect supplies of oil from the Islamic State group to Turkey.
The U.S. says they have evidence from its own sources and from Turkey that the Russian jet shot down on the Turkey/Syria border violated Turkish airspace. This allegations keep sparking the debate over where the Russian warplane was flying when Turkish aircraft shot it down.
The Russian president said during a news conference, on the fringes of U.N. climate talks near Paris, that they had every reason to think the Russian warplane was shot down by the desire to protect the oil supply lines to Turkish territory.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters in Washington that the available information indicates the Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace, and that the Turks warned the Russian pilots multiple times before the airspace violation.
After days of tension after the incident, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said, with a much more neutral tone, that his government was “really saddened” by the matter and insisting he did not want to ramp up tensions. He added that he hoped the tensions with Russia would not grow and result in more saddening incidents.
However, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his country will not apologize. He told reporters after a meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, North Atlantic Treaty Organization chief, in Brussels that Turkish forces did their “duty” to protect the country’s airspace.
Russia has maintained a harsh tone into the situation. Putin has accused Turkey of trying to bring its relations with Russia to a “dead end”, and on Saturday, he signed a decree authorizing punitive economic measures against Turkey.
The decree partially suspends “visa-free” travel between the countries. It also mandates that Russian travel agencies stop selling tours to Turkey and bans charter transportation between the nations. The sanctions also include banning Russian companies from employing Turkish citizens, while there are currently around 90,000 Turkish people working in Russia.
In the middle of the debate, the U.S. seems to have taken Turkey’s side. President Barack Obama said over a press conference on Tuesday that Turkey had a right to defend its airspace, and that Russian air activity near the Turkey-Syria border has contributed to the crisis.
“This points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations. They are operating very close to a Turkish border, and they are going after moderate opposition that is supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries.” President Obama said on the conference.
The downing of the Russian jet on the Turkey-Syria border, which is the first time one of the members of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has shot down a Russian plane since 1952, has definitely hammered ties between the two rival players in the Syria conflict.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced on Monday that the body of Col. Oleg Peshkov’s, a Russian pilot who died after the jet was shot down was flown back to Russia. Peshkov will be buried in Lipetsk, Russia, as requested by his family.