Putin Accuses Turkey of Dragging Ties to a Standstill on Purpose

After Turkey downs jet, Russian president says Moscow is still waiting for an apology; Erdogan accused Russia of using the fight against ISIS in Syria to bolster the Assad regime.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov attend a meeting with the State Council Presidium on Russia's import-substitution in the Urals city of Nizhny Tagil, Russia November 25, 2015.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and head of the presidential administration Sergei Ivanov, November 25, 2015. Credit: Reuters

Tensions continued to simmer Thursday between Moscow and Ankara, two days after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane. Russia's President Vladimir Putin said Turkey was deliberately trying to bring relations between the two states to a standstill. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, accused Russia it of using the fight against ISIS in Syria to bolster the Assad regime.

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday that it said ignored repeated warnings and crossed into its airspace from Syria, killing at least one of the two pilots in a long-feared escalation in tensions between Russia and NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced what he called a "stab in the back" and warned of "significant consequences."

"It seems that the Turkish leadership is deliberately driving relations (between Russia and Turkey) into a dead end," Putin said at the Kremlin ambassador credentials ceremony.

Putin added that Moscow is still awaiting an apology from Turkey for downing its fighter jet or an offer of reimbursement for damages.

Got a question about the Turkey-Russia crisis? Send it to QandA@haaretz.co.il for your chance to have Haaretz's Middle East expert Zvi Bar'el answer it in Monday's Q&A.

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russia was still awaiting a reasonable answer from Ankara on why it downed a Russian fighter jet earlier this week, adding that it is not considering sanctions against Turkey or imposing a food imports embargo.

"We are still waiting for an explanation, a realistic explanation from the Turkish side," Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told journalists on a conference call.

Russia's Agriculture Ministry said earlier on Thursday it was strengthening control over food and agriculture imports from Turkey.

"We're not imposing any embargo," Peskov said."

These (restrictions) are introduced due to an increasing danger from various manifestations of extremism. Of course, additional control measures are taken. This is rather natural, especially taking into account the unpredictable actions of the Republic of Turkey."

Meanwhile, Erdogan lashed out at Russia, saying that it was using its fight against the Islamic State group in Syria as a pretext to target opposition groups in a bid to strengthen Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Without naming Russia openly, Erdogan on Thursday also challenged the country to prove its accusation that Turkey is buying oil and gas from the IS group, and called the claims "shameful."

Erdogan said Turkey was the country leading the most serious fight against the IS group, saying it had detained thousands of militants over the past few years. He said Turkey had not specifically targeted Russia when it shot down the plane, saying it was "an automatic response" in line with its rules of engagement. Erdogan said: "faced with the same violation today, Turkey would give the same response."

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Thursday that Erdogan and Putin will "meet face-to-face soon," without elaborating any further. This is despite reports a day earlier that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there were no plans to send any officials to Turkey and that Moscow did not plan to host any Turkish visits.

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