Turkey apologizes to Russia for downing of war jet

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The Kremlin announced on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apologized to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a letter over Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian war plane in late 2015.

According to Reuters, the Kremlin’s statement said Putin had received a letter from Erdoğan “in which the Turkish leader expressed his desire to resolve the situation connected to the downing of a Russian military aircraft.”

Erdoğan was quoted in the Kremlin statement as writing “I want to once again express my sympathy and deep condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who died and I say: ‘I’m sorry.”

Turkish Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın confirmed Erdoğan’s letter later in the day.

Reuters reported that the Turkish lira firmed to 2.9330 against the US dollar from 2.9430 beforehand after Russia’s announcement.

On June 12, Erdoğan had sent another letter to Putin on the occasion of Russia Day. However, a Russian spokesman told the media that the letter did not require response as it was a typical protocol message sent on national holidays.

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.

Russia imposed a number of sanctions on Turkey in response to the incident. Two weeks ago Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia is willing to fix the relations with Turkey, however, Ankara first needs to take a step. There was no immediate comment from Ankara.

Alleged killer of Russian pilot released one more time

Following the incident, Alparslan Çelik, a Turkish ultra-nationalist, had 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. The Turkish court dropped charges against Çelik on May 10.

Another criminal investigation was later launched against Çelik on charges of “possessing war weapon,” however, he was released pending trial along with six others on Monday with a travel ban to abroad.

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