Lavrov: Neither Russia nor Syria staged deadly airstrike on Turkish soldiers

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. / AFP PHOTO / Alexander NEMENOV

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia had nothing to do with an air attack on Turkish soldiers in Syria on Nov. 24.

“We, as Russia, had nothing to do with it. The airstrike on Nov. 24 in which Turkish soldiers were killed was carried by neither Russia nor Syria,” said Lavrov during a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, following a meeting in the Alanya district of Turkey’s Antalya province.

Calling it a “mistake in translation,” Russia has corrected earlier news stories that quoted Lavrov as saying Syria was responsible for the attack.

The Turkish military stated on Nov. 24 that the air attack was carried out by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

The airstrike that killed four Turkish soldiers near the Syrian city of Al Bab took place on the first anniversary of an incident in which Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian jet for violating Turkish airspace near the Syrian border on Nov. 24, 2015.

The two ministers met twice as part of the 5th Russia-Turkey Joint Strategic Planning Group meetings, on Wednesday and Thursday.

The meeting came a day after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Russian Deputy President Yuriy Ushakov stated on Thursday that Erdoğan had clarified his remarks that Turkish troops were in Syria to end the rule of President  Bashar Al Assad, during his phone call with Putin.

In a speech on Tuesday Erdoğan said: “We are there [Syria] to bring justice. We are there to end the rule of the cruel Assad, who has been spreading state terror.”

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the statement by Erdoğan had come as a surprise to Moscow and that it expected an explanation from Ankara.

Moscow is a main backer of Assad, while Ankara supports the rebels fighting to oust him. Turkey and Russia have been trying to find common ground on Syria since a rapprochement in August.

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