Turkey insists it seeks no fight with Russia on its Syrian border as Russia boosts air base defences

Turkey insists it seeks no fight with Russia on its Syrian border as Russia boosts air base defences
By Robert Hackwill
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Tuesday’s shooting down by Turkey of a Russian jet on its Syrian border is the worst incident between a NATO member and Moscow in half a century

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Tuesday’s shooting down by Turkey of a Russian jet on its Syrian border is the worst incident between a NATO member and Moscow in half a century.

Wednesday saw the Turks trying to de-escalate the situation while maintaining their absolute right to defend their borders, while Moscow was talking tough.

The incident cost the Russians the lives of two aircrew; one of the SU-24 pilots, and a helicopter rescue team member.

President Vladimir Putin has condemned what he called Turkish duplicity.

“The problem is not the tragedy which we faced yesterday, the problem is deeper. We and others have watched how the Turkish authorities have pursued politics of Islamisation inside their country for many years,” he said on Wednesday. On Tuesday he directly accused Turkey of being in league with ISIL and supporting terrorism, and his foreign minister called off a planned visit to Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a business conference in Istanbul on Wednesday, sought to deflect these criticisms.

“Turkey does not support tensions, crisis or hostility. Turkey is always on the side of peace, diplomacy, and dialogue. We will continue to keep this attitude,” he said.

Russia does not intend to remain vulnerable to air attack. On Wednesday it said it was deploying its latest anti-aircraft missile system, the S400, to its Hmeimim air base in Syria.

Hmeimim is one of three air bases Russia has recently expanded or developed in western Syria from which to conduct its air support of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

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