Erdogan apologizes to Putin over death of Russian pilot, calls Russia ‘friend & strategic partner’

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has apologized over the downing of the Russian jet in November last year, expressing his regret over the incident in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Kremlin’s spokesperson.

“Erdoğan has expressed regret, his deep condolences, and said ‘I am sorry,’” the Kremlin spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also added that Erdoğan said he would do “everything possible” for the restoration of bilateral relations.

According to the spokesperson, the Turkish president said he never wanted or deliberately intended to shoot down the Russian jet.

Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Erdoğan expressed “deep sadness” over the downing of the Russian jet in his letter.

“I want to express once again that I share the grief of the Russian pilot’s family and send my condolences. Sorry about this,” Erdoğan stated in the letter, according to Kalın.

“We are on the eve of significant developments in relations with Russia,” Defense Minister Fikri Işık said.
In early June, Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım sent greetings to their Russiancounterparts Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin to mark the National Day in Russia. However, at the time Moscow said the letter “contained no substantial elements.”
Later, Moscow invited Turkey to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation meeting (BSEC) scheduled for July 1 in Sochi, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vassily Nebenzia said on June 23.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has accepted Moscow’s invitation to attend the meeting.

Turkey downed a Russian jet along its border on Nov. 24, 2015, over alleged airspace violations, prompting a series of sanctions from the Russian side, as well as a war of words.

Putin accused Ankara of a “stab in the back” and imposed sanctions on Turkey, as trade between the two countries – which back opposing sides in the five-year Syrian conflict – plummeted.

Erdoğan recently said both sides should work together to better their relations, adding that he was concerned at how ties had been sacrificed over what he described as a “pilot error.”


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