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Economy minister rules out apology for downing of Russian war plane

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Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said on Wednesday that Turkey is in no position of apologizing from Russia concerning the 2015 downing of a war plane, adding that he found the incident and its aftermath “saddening,” according to Sputnik Turkey.

Speaking at an iftar dinner held by the Association of Economy Reporters, Zeybekci commented on the recently tense relations between the two countries. Describing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent celebration letter to Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a “good sign,” Zeybekci said that Russia and Turkey are the best two countries to complete each other in the world.

When asked whether Turkey is considering apologizing from Russia and whether the issue was discussed by the Cabinet, Zeybekci said “No, such a thing would never cross our minds. Turkey is in no position of apologizing at the moment. But let me tell you this: Of course, the downing of the plane and what happened in its aftermath are saddening.”

Zeybekci stressed that the ongoing tension cannot be pursued by neither Russia nor Turkey in terms of economy. “Ending the problem is both in the interest of Russia and Turkey,” Zeybekci said. According to Zeybekci, both countries have taken positive steps so far to fix the relations.

During a TV interview on Wednesday, Zeybekci also said “The killing of the Russian pilot is an extremely saddening issue. Apologizing is a different issue diplomatically. Not regretting, but we are sorry. They should be sorry, as well. We believe that they are sorry for intentionally violating the Turkish airspace.

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.

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

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