President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told the media on Friday that he is likely to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin later this month or in August, a move that follows Turkey’s apology from Russia last week concerning the downing of a Russian war jet in 2015.
Erdoğan spoke to press at the İstanbul Atatürk Airport ahead of his trip to the Polish capital of Warsaw. In response to a question from a reporter, Erdoğan said that the Ministry of Interior has been working with its Russian counterpart to set a date for a meeting between him and the Russian president. Erdoğan added that there is no scheduled meeting yet, however, it will be publicly announced when a date is set.
Following his statement, Erdoğan flew to Warsaw for the NATO summit slated for July 8 and 9. The president was accompanied by First Lady Emine Erdoğan, Minister of Interior Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Minister of Defense Fikri Işık.
Relations between Russia and Turkey had been strained since Nov. 24, 2015, when a Russian fighter jet was shot down by Turkish military aircraft near Turkey’s border with Syria. Russia imposed a number of sanctions on Turkey in response to the incident. Last week, Erdoğan apologized to Putin in a letter.
Following the downing of the Russian war plane, two contradicting official statements came from the two countries. According to 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 as he descended with parachute after surviving the crash. The pilot was later identified as Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov by Russian authorities.
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. 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.