Kremlin Says Erdogan Apologized for Turkey Shooting Down Jet

  • Putin received message offering deep regrets, Kremlin says
  • Letter says Erdogan wants to restore Russia ties, Peskov said

The Kremlin said Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized in a letter to President Vladimir Putin over the downing of a Russian military jet, an incident that plunged relations between the two countries into crisis.

“The head of the Turkish state expressed his sympathy and deep condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who was killed, and he said sorry,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday. Erdogan said he would do everything he could to “restore the traditionally friendly ties between Turkey and Russia,” Peskov said.

Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane close to the border with Syria in November. Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said the aircraft crossed into its territory and ignored warnings, while Russia insisted the plane never left Syrian airspace. Putin warned of “serious consequences” and imposed sanctions including a ban on charter flights that hurt Turkey’s tourism industry. Imports of some Turkish fruits and vegetables were also barred. He accused Turkey of a “stab in the back” of Russian forces bombing Islamic State and other militants in Syria.

Erdogan offered “sympathy and profound condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who was killed and I apologize to them,” according to comments from the letter published on the Kremlin’s website.

Fight Terrorism

The statement from the Turkish presidential office didn’t refer to Erdogan’s remarks as an apology, while saying that Turkey and Russia agreed to take necessary steps without delay to improve bilateral relations. It cited Erdogan as saying to the family of the Russian pilot that “I share their pain and offer my condolences to them. May they excuse us.”

Erdogan said in the letter that Turkey is ready to fight terrorism together with Russia, according to both statements.

While Turkey’s “made the first step,” it’s “too early to talk about the removal of sanctions,” Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said in an interview in Moscow. Turkey should close its border with Syria to help prevent the flow of weapons and aid to terrorists if it wants to rebuild relations with Russia, he said.

Erdogan’s initiative reflects his difficult situation in relation to the conflict in Syria and the challenges faced by the Turkish economy from Russian sanctions, Tim Ash, a London-based strategist at Nomura International Plc, said in an e-mail. The release of the news from Moscow suggests “Putin is willing to accept the apology,” he said.

Tourism Decline

With Europe weakened by the Brexit crisis, “Putin is probably eager to demonstrate that he is the ‘go to’ person in the region” and that “even the U.S.’s NATO ally Turkey in the end has to go ‘cap in hand’ with an apology to Russia,” Ash said.

The Borsa Istanbul 100 Index ended the day 0.3 percent lower, with gains by Turkish Airlines, industrial and energy stocks leading the way in trimming a 0.6 percent decline earlier in the day.

The Russian sanctions contributed to Turkey’s record drop in foreign-tourist arrivals in April, which fell by 28 percent to 1.75 million compared with a year earlier. The number of arrivals dropped for a ninth consecutive month, the longest streak of year-on-year declines in statistics that span a decade.

Russia shelved several projects with Turkey after the incident, including a planned gas pipeline through the Black Sea that would make Turkey a linchpin in Europe’s energy supplies by 2020.

Turkish Stream

Work on the Turkish Stream link was suspended in December, with Gazprom saying the route was still possible if political relations improved. The company’s press service didn’t immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment.

Energy-related stocks in Turkey and Israel advanced after officials indicated that the two countries are ready to restore diplomatic relations suspended six years ago after a deadly clash at sea between Israeli commandos and pro-Palestinian Turkish activists.

The accord would pave the way for multibillion-dollar contracts as Israel seeks to export natural gas from its largest field and Turkey looks to reduce its reliance on Russian .

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