BELGRADE: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday expressed Ankara’s condolences to Russia for the death of a Russian pilot when one of its warplanes was shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border last week.
“We expressed our sadness and expressed our condolences for the Russian pilot who lost his life,” Turkish media quoted Cavusoglu as saying after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Belgrade, in the first high-level contact between the two sides since the incident on November 24.
Both Russian pilots ejected from the Su-24 plane after being shot down by Turkish F-16s, an incident for which Russia has demanded a full apology.
One was killed while parachuting to the ground — in circumstances yet to be fully explained — while a second was rescued by Russian and Syrian forces from the Syrian side of the border. Another Russian serviceman was killed in the rescue operation.
Cavusoglu praised the mood of the talks but gave no indication of a breakthrough on ending the crisis.
“It´s important to keep the channels of dialogue open,” he said.
“On both sides there is a desire not to escalate the tensions. I am sure that common sense will win over emotion.”
But he added: “It would not be realistic to say that the problems have been overcome in a first meeting.”
Russia has in the last days also accused Ankara of importing oil from Islamic State jihadists in Syria, allegations that Turkey fiercely denies.
“We gave our response to the claims that have been raised,” Cavusoglu said after the talks. “Our hope is that they will give up their baseless claims.”
In comments broadcast on Russian television, Lavrov also confirmed that there had been no breakthrough.
“We met with Mr Cavusoglu… We did not hear anything new. The Turkish minister confirmed the positions which they have already voiced. We confirmed our views,” Lavrov said.