Defiant Turkey urges Russia to retract sanctions

A Russian SU-24M jet fighter armed with laser guided bombs takes off from a runaway at Hmeimim airbase in Syria. (Alexander Kots, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Photo via AP)
A Russian SU-24M jet fighter armed with laser guided bombs takes off from a runaway at Hmeimim airbase in Syria. (Alexander Kots, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Photo via AP)

Brussels - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged Moscow on Monday to reconsider economic sanctions that it issued after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane last week, but refused to apologize for the incident.

"We hope that Russia will reconsider these reactions, these measures, which will be against our interests both," he told journalists during a visit to Nato headquarters in Brussels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the sanctions on Saturday amid deteriorating relations between Ankara and Moscow since Tuesday's downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber over the Turkish-Syrian border.

The package of sanctions included bans on some Turkish exports, a prohibition on the hiring of Turkish nationals from next year and a suspension of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

Turkey has argued that the downing of the Russian plane was justified because it violated Turkish airspace.

Russia insists that the plane did not leave Syria, where it is flying an air campaign to support Syrian President Bashar Assad against rebel forces and extremists, and has demanded an apology.

"No Turkish prime minister or president or authority will apologise because of doing our duty," Davutoglu said on Monday, reiterating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's refusal to apologise for the incident.

"Our military did their job when they protected our airspace. Our airspace and our border is an issue of national security, but [even] more an issue of dignity for us," he added.

Ankara is, however, "ready to talk" with Moscow to prevent similar incidents in the future, the prime minister said.

Decree signed

The sanctions decree signed by Putin also outlawed travel operators from selling tours to Turkey, a favourite destination for Russian holidaymakers, and banned charter flights between the two countries.

Davutoglu urged Russian citizens to nevertheless continue visiting his country as tourists.

He criticized the sanctions as inconsistent with Moscow's past position on the use of restrictive measures. Russia has repeatedly slammed the West for imposing sanctions against Moscow for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

"It is contradictory to use the same measure against Turkey which was criticized by them when other countries did so in Ukraine," Davutoglu said.

He added that his country is not planning on further escalating the tensions between Ankara and Moscow.

"Economic relations are based on mutual interest, and any other measures we will approach very calmly," Davutoglu said. "We will not escalate the tension, we will never do anything which will be seen negatively by Russian people."

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