Turkey walks back offer to compensate Russia for downed jet
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Turkey walks back offer to compensate Russia for downed jet

Erdogan, Putin to speak in effort to rebuild ties amid tensions over backing opposite sides in Syrian war

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits down as Turkey's then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on before a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, December 3, 2012. (AP/Tolga Bozoglu, Pool)
Russian President Vladimir Putin sits down as Turkey's then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on before a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, December 3, 2012. (AP/Tolga Bozoglu, Pool)

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday reversed an earlier offer of compensation to Russia for shooting down one of Moscow’s military jets in November, media reported.

“Compensating Russia is not on the table; we have only expressed our regrets,” CNN-Turk cited him as saying, hours after he said Ankara was ready to offer compensation for the incident that shattered ties between the two countries.

Earlier, Yildirim told local television that Turkey is ready “if necessary” to compensate Russia in order to bury the hatchet.

“We have said that if necessary we are ready to pay compensation,” Yildirim told public TV network TRT late Monday, hours after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached out a conciliatory hand to Moscow over the incident that shattered ties between the two nations.

He also indicated that Erdogan would speak with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday or Thursday over how to rebuild ties between the two nations, which back opposite sides in the Syrian war.

“I think we have reached an understanding on this affair. We will put this incident behind us and continue on our path,” Yildirim said.

Turkey had previously refused to apologize over the incident, insisting the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Turkey of a “planned provocation.”

A Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Tuesday, November 24, 2015. (screen capture: Haberturk TV via AP)
A Russian warplane on fire before crashing on a hill as seen from Hatay province, Tuesday, November 24, 2015. (screen capture: Haberturk TV via AP)

Ankara is backing rebels fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar Assad, while Moscow is one of his last remaining allies.

Ankara went on a diplomatic charm offensive on Monday as it seeks to shore up its influence in the region, hailing a deal with Israel to restore ties as well as mending fences with Russia.

Erdogan said at a dinner to break the Ramadan fast on Monday night that he hoped for a “quick” normalization in ties with Moscow.

Earlier Monday, the Kremlin said Erdogan had apologized to Putin over Ankara’s downing of the jet on Turkey’s border with Syria. Turkish officials said, however, that Erdogan had written to Putin to “express his regrets” and did not explicitly confirm he had said sorry.

Also Monday, Israel and Turkey announced Monday the terms of a deal ending years of diplomatic stalemate between the eastern Mediterranean countries and heralding the normalization of ties.

The twin breakthroughs with Russia and Israel come as Turkey moves back toward a policy known as “zero problems with neighbors” following a string of diplomatic crises and with its foe Assad still in power in Syria.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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