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Recep Tayyip Erdogan wishes downing hadn’t occurred

AFP/AP/REUTERS
Published : Nov 29, 2015, 4:18 am IST
Updated : Nov 29, 2015, 4:18 am IST

Turkey’s President has told supporters that he was saddened by the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish forces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP/File)
 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: AP/File)

Turkey’s President has told supporters that he was saddened by the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish forces.

Addressing supporters on Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again defended Turkey’s action and criticised Russia for its action in Syria before expressing his regrets.

In his most conciliatory comments yet after Tuesday’s incident, Mr Erdogan said: “We wish it hadn’t 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,” Mr Erdogan told supporters in western Balikesir province.

He said both sides should approach the issue in a more positive way.

He added that a meeting in Paris would be an opportunity to overcome tensions, and he renewed a call for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a climate conference in Paris next week.

Earlier, Turkey issued a travel warning urging its nationals to delay non-urgent and unnecessary 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, Mr Erdogan and Mr 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 Mr Putin has furiously denied that and demanded an apology.

“We advise Russia not to play with fire,” Mr 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 Mr Putin as a “stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists”.

Meanwhile, two US officials said that Russia did not inform the US military of its jet’s flight plan before Turkey shot it down on Tuesday, despite assertions to the contrary by Mr Putin.

Mr Putin has suggested some degree of US culpability in the aftermath of the incident, even hinting that the United States might have given detailed Russian operational plans to Turkey ahead of time.

The two US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, however, that Russia had not passed along the kind of granular operational details suggested by Mr Putin in his public remarks.

Mr Putin on Thursday said “we informed our American partners” about when and where Russian aircraft would be operating. It was “precisely” then that the Turkish Air Force shot down the Russian warplane, he said.

Elesewhere in the UK, around 4,000 people joined a protest in London Saturday against the country potentially joining airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Parliament is expected to vote on the issue next week after Prime Minister David Cameron pushed MPs to back the move in the wake of this month’s Paris attacks.

The demonstration was organised by the Stop The War Coalition protest movement.

Its chairman Andrew Murray urged demonstrators to “stand behind” Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main Opposition Labour party and a former Stop the War Coalition chairman, in opposing air strikes. “This is a conflict that cannot and will not be solved by bombing,” Mr Murray told the crowd.

One demonstrator, 65-year-old John Offen, said he and others were worried about a “lack of planning” in the proposed military action.

“We’ve had adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added, referring to Britain’s role in previous conflicts.

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