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Russia says Turkey first needs to take step on downing of plane to reinstate ties

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Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated on Wednesday that Russia is willing to fix the recently tense relations with Turkey, however, Ankara first needs to take a step concerning the 2015 downing of a Russian war jet by the Turkish military.

Peskov’s statement came shortly after the celebration letter sent to Kremlin by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 12 on the occasion of Russia Day.

Peskov said that Russia wants to normalize its relations with Turkey and to go back to the times, when there was a cooperation based on bilateral interests. However, Peskov added that Russian President Vladimir Putin said that normalization of relations could not be possible without the Turkish government taking necessary steps.

The Russian spokesman also said that Erdoğan’s letter did not require response as it was a typical protocol message sent on national holidays. According to Peskov, the letter did not include any other messages, noting that this was the first national holiday following Turkey’s shooting of a Russian war plane.

Erdoğan’s letter was quoted in the Turkish media as “I celebrate you and the Russian nation for the National Day of the Russian Federation on behalf of my people. And I am hoping that the relations between Turkey and Russia will rise to the level they deserve.”

Russia is expecting Turkey to officially apologize for the downing of the Russian jet and to pay compensation for the incident.

A Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkish military aircraft near Turkey’s border with Syria on November 24, 2015. Following the incident, two contradicting official statements came from the two countries. According to Russian President Putin, the Su-24 was struck by air-to-air missiles fired by Turkish F-16s as it was flying over Syrian territory. However, the Turkish government claimed that the Russian plane violated Turkish airspace and it was engaged after being warned.

The pilot of the downed Russian plane was shot dead reportedly as he descended with parachute after surviving the crash. The pilot was later identified as Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov by Russian authorities. Following the incident, Alparslan Çelik, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, claimed that his group killed the Russian pilot. Çelik was reportedly fighting in the ranks of Turkmen groups in Syria.

In December 2015, Moscow demanded Çelik’s arrest and extradition to Russia. A Turkish court in the western province of Izmir ruled for arrest of Çelik in late March. However, the Turkish court dropped charges against Çelik on May 10.

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