Turkey won’t apologise to Russia for shooting down a warplane operating over Syria, the Turkish prime minister said Monday, stressing that the Turkish military was doing its job defending the country’s airspace.
Ahmet Davutoglu also said Turkey hopes Moscow will reconsider economic sanctions announced against Turkish interests in the wake of last week’s incident. The Turkish resort town of Antalya is “like a second home” to many Russian holidaymakers, he said, but refused to yield on Turkish security.
“No Turkish prime minister or president will apologize … because of doing our duty,” Davutoglu told reporters after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
“Protection of Turkish airspace, Turkish borders is a national duty, and our army did their job to protect this airspace. But if the Russian side wants to talk, and wants to prevent any future unintentional events like this, we are ready to talk.”
Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane on Nov. 24, sparking new Cold War-style tensions between NATO, of which Turkey is a member, and Russia. One of the Russian pilots later died, while a second was rescued.
In recent years, NATO has had both tensions and cooperation with Russia over issues ranging from Afghanistan and Ukraine to Syria and beyond.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Sunday that he’s concerned about the Turkey-Russia tensions.
On Monday, the body of Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, the Russian pilot who was killed, was flown back to Russia following a military ceremony in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey’s military said.
Russia began airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30 that it says are focused on fighters of the Islamic State group, but which some observers say target other rebel groups and are aimed at bolstering the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Russia insists that the plane that was shot down didn’t intrude on Turkish airspace.
Davutoglu insisted a violation occurred, and said Turkey had repeatedly warned Russia about incursions into its airspace.
“We also made very clear that the Turkish-Syria border is a national security issue for Turkey. So it was a defensive action,” Davutoglu said. He repeated Turkish assertions that there were no IS fighters in the area.
“We have been telling our Russian friends that their bombardments against civilians on our border is creating new waves of refugees which do not go to Russia or to any other country, but coming to Turkey,” he said.
“And Turkey, after every bombardment, (is) receiving more and more tens of thousands of refugees from Syria,” Davutoglu added. “Turkey is a country paying the price of this crisis.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called for sanctions against Turkey including bans on some Turkish goods and extensions on work contracts for Turks working in Russia. The measures also call for ending chartered flights from Russia to Turkey and for Russian tourism companies to stop selling vacation packages that would include a stay in Turkey.