Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ruled out the implementation of counter-sanctions on Russia after Moscow introduced economic curbs on Turkish imports following the downing of a Russian fighter jet on the Turkish border with Syria on Nov. 24.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Erdogan said that the Turkish government would act "patiently and not emotionally" in the diplomatic crisis that has emerged between Ankara and Moscow.
"Let's let their chips fall as they may, then if we have our own chips, we'll let those fall," Erdogan told CNN Turk on the sidelines of Monday’s climate summit in Paris.
Erdogan had been hoping that the summit would be an opportunity for him and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to come together and iron out their differences over last week’s incident, in which one Russian fighter jet pilot was killed after being shot in mid-air by Syrian opposition forces on the ground.
Another pilot was rescued by a Russian team after ejecting from the jet, but one member of the Russian rescue team was also killed during the operation after Syrian opposition forces blew up their helicopter.
The body of the dead pilot, Oleg Peshkov, was handed over to Russia by Turkey on Monday after it was given to Turkey by the Syrian opposition forces.
According to the evidence provided by the Turkish authorities, the Russian Su-24 fighter jet was shot down after violating Turkish airspace for 17 seconds, despite being given a total of 10 warnings in five minutes.
President Erdogan tried to calm the tension following the incident, claiming that Turkish authorities were not aware that the jet belonged to Russia at the time, and had they known they would have been more cautious about shooting it down.
Putin, meanwhile, having already rejected two phone calls from Erdogan, has refused to hold any diplomatic contacts with Turkish officials until the Turkish government apologises for the incident.
Calling Russia a strategic partner," Erdogan continued to tell reporters that Turkey has no intentions of cutting relations with Russia “even if it is just a piece of string remaining,” but admitted that he had no idea as to how Russia will proceed after the incident.
On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels that Turkey will not apologise to Russia as the downing of the jet was a defensive act.
“To protect Turkey’s borders and airspace is not only a right but also a national duty and our army fulfilled its duty to protect the airspace,” Davutoglu said.
“We would not wish to be faced with such an incident. However the rules of engagement were clear and we had already warned our neighbour and ally Russia to respect our air space three times,” he added, referring to previous breaches of Turkish airspace.
Turkey and Russia have been in disagreement over the Syrian civil war, with Turkey being an outspoken critic of Bashar al Assad’s regime since the war started in March 2011. While Turkey backs opposition groups, Russia has been firm in its support for the regime.
The disagreement worsened following the high-level Russian military intervention in the Syrian conflict under the guise that Russian air strikes will target the DAESH terrorist group, which has taken advantage of the power vacuum arising from the war to seize swathes of land across the country, as well as in neighbouring Iraq.
However, to date, most Russian air strikes have targeted Syrian opposition forces in defence of the Assad regime. This includes the bombardment of Turkmen villages in Syria’s northwestern coastal province of Latakia near the Turkish border, thus escalating tensions with Turkey. Following Tuesday’s incident, Erdogan told Putin “not to play with fire” in Syria by supporting Assad.
On Sunday, Russian jets also bombed a bakery which was built by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) 16 months ago to provide 65,000 loafs of bread per day for 40,000 people in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, as Russia also intensified air strikes on opposition forces in northern Aleppo in a bid to cut off their supply route via the Bab al Salam border crossing with Turkey.
The latest air strikes in the region has led to the YPG, the Syrian branch of the south-eastern Turkey-based terror group PKK, to close down on the area.
In turn, Turkey has deployed 80 tanks on the border at two separate locations as the situation becomes increasingly chaotic.
Erdogan rejects DAESH accusations
Erdogan also retorted Russian accusations that Turkey is buying oil from DAESH, saying Russia is “disrespecting” Turkey through such baseless accusations while claiming that it is actually Russia’s ally - the Assad regime - buying oil from DAESH.
Having snubbed Erdogan’s request for a meeting at the Paris summit, Putin reiterated the accusations, saying “At the moment we have received additional information confirming that oil from the deposits controlled by [DAESH] militants enters Turkish territory on industrial scale.”
“We have every reason to believe that the decision to down our plane was guided by a desire to ensure security of this oil’s delivery routes to ports where they are shipped in tankers,” Putin said on the sidelines.
Meanwhile, Erdogan said he would resign if accusations that oil produced in DAESH-held territories were being channeled to Turkey were proven to be true.
“We are not that dishonest as to buy oil from terrorists. If it is proven that we have, in fact, done so, I will leave office. If there is any evidence, let them present it, we’ll consider [it],” he said.