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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Tension escalates as Russia fires warning shots at Turkish vessel

Tension between Turkey and Russia entered a new phase after a Russian warship fired what Moscow called warning shots at a Turkish fishing boat in the Aegean Sea, summoning the Turkish military attaché in Moscow over the incident, leaving diplomatic efforts to resolve dispute in shambles.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that one of its warships, the destroyer Smetlivy, used small arms fire to ward off a Turkish fishing boat and prevent a collision in the Aegean Sea.

A ministry statement says Smetlivy was unable to establish radio contact with the approaching Turkish seiner, which also failed to respond to visual signals and flares. When the boat was 600 meters (660 yards) away, the destroyer fired and the Turkish vessel quickly changed course, passing within 540 meters.

The incident, which occurred on Sunday morning, is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations, which are at odds over Syria and the Turkish shooting down of a Russian military jet last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called the downing of the plane a "stab in the back," has since imposed economic sanctions on Turkey as a retaliatory measure.

Earlier this month, Turkey complained to Russia about an incident in which a Russian sailor was pictured brandishing a rocket launcher on the deck of a naval ship passing through İstanbul.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who on Friday called on Russia for calm, had a brief meeting with senior Russian official Valentina Matvienko in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, to defuse tension between the two countries. His efforts seemingly yielded no result, as Matvienko insisted on the Russian demand for a Turkish apology over the downing of the Russian warplane before returning to normal in relations.

She said the incident will leave its mark on relations in the future, unless the Turkish administration realizes its responsibility and delivers an apology.

Iran offered to play a mediating role in simmering dispute between Russia and Turkey, Iranian media reported, after Iranian First Vice President Ishak Jahangir met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ashgabat. The row with Russia also put Turkey's regional relations in jeopardy, and triggered Russian interference in Ankara's disputes with regional countries.

Russia called Turkish troop deployment in northern Iraq a violation of international law and norms, and deemed it an "unlawful incursion."

"The Russian side expressed its firm position in support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The president of Belarus has called on the leaders of Russia and Turkey to "find the strength" to compromise and overcome the crisis in their relations.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addressed a gathering of regional leaders, including Turkish President Erdoğan, in Ashgabat.

Referring to tensions between Turkey and Russia, Lukashenko said, "If you make a mistake, you should acknowledge it and find the strength to make concessions and compromises to smooth over the situation."


Military personnel barred from going to Russia on vacation

The General Staff has prohibited Turkish military personnel from going to Russia on vacation as a precautionary measure, given the diplomatic crisis between the countries, Turkish media reports said on Sunday.

Two Turkish F-16s downed the Russian Su-24 near the border with Syria, claiming that it had violated Turkish airspace. Russia denied the claims of airspace violation and said the jet was in Syrian airspace the entire time.

After the incident, Russia established a sanctions package that included banning some Turkish food imports. The country's leadership also called on Russians not to visit Turkey in retaliation for the incident. Russia expects an apology from Turkey; however, Turkey refuses to give one and says that it has the right to protect its airspace.
 Todayszaman.com

13/12/15

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