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Saturday , September 26 2020

‘Putin fully mobilised to tackle threat from Turkey’ – Erdogan ‘saddened’ by downing of Russian jet

A Russian seaman stands next to a machine gun on the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, near the shores of Syria’s province of Latakia
A Russian seaman stands next to a machine gun on the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, near the shores of Syria’s province of Latakia

MOSCOW, Nov 28, (Agencies): President Vladimir Putin is fully mobilised to tackle what the Kremlin regards as an unprecedented threat from Turkey following the shooting down of one of its warplanes by a Turkish F-16, the Russian leader’s spokesman said on Saturday.
In comments which underscore how angry the Kremlin still is over the incident, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, called the behaviour of the Turkish air force “absolute madness” and said Ankara’s subsequent handling of the crisis had reminded him of the “theatre of the absurd.”
“Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind,” Peskov told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV programme, calling Turkish evidence purporting to show the Russian SU-24 jet had violated Turkish air space “cartoons”.
In another sign of tensions after its shooting down of the Russian plane on Tuesday, which resulted in the death of one of the pilots, Turkey’s foreign ministry advised people on Saturday to postpone all non-urgent travel to Russia.
Peskov said the crisis had prompted Putin, whose ministers are preparing retaliatory economic measures against Turkey, to “mobilise” in the way an army does in tense times.
“The president is mobilised, fully mobilised, mobilised to the extent that circumstances demand,” said Peskov.
“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat.”
President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will not apologise for downing the jet, but he said on Saturday that the incident had saddened him and that the climate change summit in Paris next week could be a chance to repair relations with Moscow.
“Confrontation will not bring anyone happiness. As much as Russia is important for Turkey, Turkey is important for Russia,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in the western city of Baliksehir.
Peskov said Putin was aware of a Turkish request for him to meet Erdogan on the sidelines of the Paris conference but gave no indication of whether such a meeting would take place.
Peskov denied Turkish press reports which said Moscow and Ankara had struck a deal for their warplanes to stop flying along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying military ties between the two countries had been severed and a hot line meant to avoid misunderstandings among their pilots dismantled.
Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke of how Erdogan’s son had a “certain interest” in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey.
Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence.
Peskov said he “noted” that Turkey’s newly-appointed energy minister, Berat Albayrak, was Erdogan’s son-in-law.
He added that there could be up to 200,000 Turkish citizens on Russian soil. “What’s important is that everyone who is able to use their influence to guarantee at least some predictability in the pattern of Turkey’s behaviour,” Peskov said.
“Russian planes should never be shot down.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday expressed “sadness” over Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane that has severely strained relations, saying he wished the incident had never happened.
In his most conciliatory comments yet after Tuesday’s incident, Erdogan said: “I’m really saddened by the incident. We wish it had never happened, but it happened. I hope something like this doesn’t happen again.
“We hope that the issue between us and Russia does not escalate any further, become corrosive and have dire consequences in the future,” Erdogan told supporters in western Balikesir province.
Erdogan also renewed a call to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a face-to-face meeting in Paris on the sidelines of the Global Climate Summit on Monday, saying it would be an opportunity to restore relations.
“What we tell Russia is ‘Let’s resolve this issue between ourselves and within its boundaries. Let’s not make others happy by destroying our whole relationship,” Erdogan said.
“Russia is important for Turkey as much as Turkey is important for Russia. Both countries cannot afford to give up on each other.”
Putin, who has branded the incident a “stab in the back”, is yet to agree to talks.
The plane incident, one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, has drawn a harsh response from Moscow.
Russia announced it was halting a visa-free regime for Turkish visitors, after threatening a raft of retaliatory economic measures to punish the NATO member state.
Turkey on Saturday warned its citizens off non-urgent travel to Russia in the latest tit-for-tat move as the two nations square off over Ankara’s downing of one of Moscow’s warplanes.
The foreign ministry in Ankara said travel to Russia should be avoided a day after Moscow — which had earlier urged its nationals to leave Turkey — announced it was scrapping its visa-free regime for Turkish visitors.
The Russian government has in addition said it is preparing a raft of retaliatory economic measures to Tuesday’s downing of its jet on the Turkey-Syria border — that could see major investment projects and key economic sectors hit.
The incident has sparked a bitter war of words between the two strongmen leaders, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who are rival players in the war in Syria.
NATO member Turkey blasted the Russian jet out of the sky after claiming it crossed into its airspace but Putin has furiously denied that and demanded an apology.
“We advise Russia not to play with fire,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Friday, lashing out at Russia’s response to the downing as well as its support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The shooting down of the jet is thought to be the first downing of a Russian warplane by a NATO member since 1952 and has been decried by Putin as a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists”.
Erdogan has nevertheless said he wanted a direct meeting with Putin when the two leaders are in Paris next week for the UN climate summit.
But Putin is yet to agree to talks and Moscow has refused to let up the pressure on Ankara.
“From our point of view, it is now difficult to determine the level of predictability in the actions of the Turkish leadership,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview released Saturday.
The downing of the jet has seen limited anti-Turkish demonstrations in Russia and Turkish nationals in the country reportedly face increased checks from officials.
Citing problems faced by Turks in Russia in the wake of the incident the foreign ministry said non-urgent visits to Russia should be avoided “until the situation becomes clear.”
Moscow has ruled out any military response, but has pledged broad measures targeting entire sectors of the Turkish economy including tourism, agriculture and possibly key energy projects.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said Turkish nationals would require visas from January 1, after Putin this week warned citizens not to travel to Turkey — a hugely popular destination for Russians.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday gave ministers two days to work out a plan to curb cooperation with Turkish companies after Russia said it would tighten checks on food imports over alleged safety standard violations.
Moscow has also hinted the reprisals could hit two major projects with Turkey — a planned gas pipeline and a nuclear power plant.
The two countries have built trade ties in recent years and Russia is already energy-poor Turkey’s biggest oil and gas supplier.
But they are on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, with Ankara backing rebels fighting to topple Assad while Moscow is one of his last remaining allies.

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