Turkey and Russia have reportedly agreed to hold a meeting between their respective foreign ministers in the next few days, amid a crisis arising from the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet that had breached Turkish airspace on Tuesday.
Speaking to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic confirmed that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and that the two had spoken on the phone, despite Lavrov canceling a planned visit to Turkey on Wednesday.
“The details of the issue should be shared via diplomatic and military channels," Bilgic told Anadolu Agency, without giving further details.
In a press statement also released on Wednesday, the Turkish Chief of General Staff said that it had contacted the Russian military authorities regarding the incident and that they were willing to cooperate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, denied there were plans to send Russian officials to Turkey or to host Turkish delegates in the near future. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was due to visit Moscow on Dec. 15.
Turkey shot down the Russian Su-24 fighter jet on Tuesday along the Syrian border after it entered Turkish airspace over the southern border province of Hatay for a total of 17 seconds, despite being warned 10 times in five minutes before being downed.
Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) released the radar footage of the incident which indicated the downed warplane violated the Turkish airspace over the country’s Hatay province near its Syrian border.
After the incident, Turkish President Erdogan said that the Russian warplane was downed by the Turkish Air Force as a requirement of engagement rules to protect the sovereign territory of Turkey.
“Everyone should respect the fact that Turkey has right to protect its borders,” Erdogan said. “We are saddened by this matter and nobody should doubt that we did our best to avoid the incident.”
However, Russia had denied its plane entered Turkish airspace and that a warning was issued to the pilot.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the incident as a “stab in the back” and warned Turkey of "serious consequences."
Lavrov, meanwhile, was quick to dismiss the possibility of war with Turkey in a statement to the press on Wednesday. "We do not intend to wage a war on Turkey. Our attitude to the Turkish people has not changed. We have questions over the action of Turkey's current leadership," Lavrov said.
Russia has been carrying out air strikes in Syria since Sept. 30 in an effort to prop up the embattled regime of Bashar al Assad, under the guise that it is targeting the DAESH terrorist group.
Turkey and the US have raised concerns that the air strikes have been mainly targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime.
Among these moderate opposition groups include Turkmen brigades that are backed by Turkey in the Bayir-Bucak region of Syria’s coastal Latakia province, south of Turkey’s bordering Hatay province.
At least 5,000 Syrian Turkmen were forced to evacuate their villages and flee to the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday night following an intense three day aerial bombardment by Russia on their villages supported by ground assault of forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.
The assault targeted at least 14 Turkmen villages, resulting in civilian casualties, according to various media accounts.
Russian fighter jets previously violated the Turkish airspace near Syrian border in early October during their bombing campaign.
At the time, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the violation and summoned the Russian ambassador to convey its condemnation of the breach, according to a statement released on Oct.5.
Furthermore, the Russian ambassador was summoned by Ankara again following an alleged second violation by the Russian warplanes, which is yet to be clarified by the Moscow government.
Over four and a half years of fighting in Syria has left over 250,000 Syrians dead, according to UN estimates. More than 6.7 million are displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.