Russian President Vladimir Putin snubbed a meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Paris on Monday as the body of a pilot killed when Ankara downed one of Moscow’s warplanes was flown home. Turkish authorities, meanwhile, again pledged not to apologise over last Tuesday’s downing of the Russian jet as Moscow rolled out its sanctions aimed at exacting economic revenge on Ankara.
Putin and Erdogan have been locked in a furious war of words since the incident and the Kremlin strongman rejected the Turkish leader’s offer of face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a climate conference in the French capital. “No meeting with Erdogan is planned. There is no discussion of such a meeting,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
The downing of the Russian jet on the Turkey-Syria border — the first time a NATO member has shot down a Russian plane since 1952 — has seen ties shattered between the two rival players in the Syria conflict. Russia’s government on Monday laid out more details of retaliatory economic sanctions aimed at denting Turkey’s key tourism and agricultural sectors.
Moscow announced it will halt fruit and vegetable imports from Turkey after Putin signed a decree over the weekend banning charter flights and the sale of package holidays, and scrapping Russia’s visa-free regime with the country. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called the moves a “first step” as Moscow also said it would limit Turkish transport firms and tighten controls on construction contracts. The authorities, however, stopped short of targeting Russia’s major joint energy projects with Turkey.
– Pilot’s body returned –
The announcement on the economic reprisals came as the body of pilot Oleg Peshkov, who was killed when the plane was shot down, was repatriated from Ankara. A Russian plane carrying the corpse of Peshkov — who was posthumously awarded Russia’s highest award — left the Turkish capital after the body was brought from Syria to Turkey and handed over to Russian diplomats.
Both pilots aboard the Su-24 war plane ejected and parachuted to the ground on the Syrian side of the border after being shot down by Turkish F-16s in the November 24 incident. Moscow’s defence ministry said Peshkov was shot dead from the ground while his comrade Konstantin Murakhtin was rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces.
Local reports said Peshkov will be buried Wednesday after his body arrives in his hometown Lipetsk, an industrial city in central Russia. Russian media has portrayed the handover of the remains as a goodwill gesture on the part of Ankara after several days of heated rhetoric over the downing.
But as the pilot’s body was flown back, the diplomatic tit-for-tat rumbled on with neither side looking set to back down. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted once again that Ankara would not apologise over the downing of the plane. “Protection of our airspace, our border is not only a right but a duty for my government and no Turkish premier or president … will apologise (for) doing our duty,” he told a joint press conference with NATO head Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
Davutoglu decried Russia’s sanctions against Turkey and called on Moscow to “reconsider these measures in both our interests”, while reiterating once again Ankara’s willingness to talk. “If the Russian side wants to talk, we are ready; if they want more information, we are ready; if they want to normalise relations, we are ready to talk,” he said.