Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, received the support of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Monday, after Davutoglu's announcement that Turkey would not apologize to Russia for the downing of a Russian fighter plane. Photo courtesy of NATO
BRUSSELS, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday that Turkey will not apologize for shooting down a Russian fighter plane last week over Turkish airspace.
Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced NATO's support of Turkey in defending its airspace, Davutoglu added Turkey would be willing to hold talks with Russia.
"If (the) Russian side wants talks and prevent any future event like this, we are ready to talk. If they want information, we can give any information regarding this incident; if they want to improve relations... we are ready to talk. The protection of our airspace (and) land border is not only a right, but duty for my government. No authority will apologize because of doing (its) duty...protection of Turkish borders is a national duty and our army did their job to protect its airspace," he said.
He added Turkey, a NATO member, has no intention of escalating the conflict with Russia, and that incidents such as that of last week are to be expected if Russia and a U.S.-led coalition continue airstrikes in Syria, Turkey's neighbor.
Russia and Turkey have disagreed on the circumstances of the downing of the Su-24 fighter jet. Turkey said it warned the pilot 10 times it was flying over Turkish airspace, and to divert or be shot down; Russia says no warning was received. The pilot, Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, was killed, and his body received Orthodox funeral rites and will be returned to Russia; co-pilot Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin was rescued and returned to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an economic sanction in retaliation, including a ban on importation of some Turkish goods and on Russian tourism to Turkey, an important source of revenue for Turkey. At NATO headquarters, Davutoglu said he hoped Russian tourists would continue visiting Turkey
Speaking Monday at a meeting of Russian vice-premiers in Gorki, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev noted Turkey's "strange position" of seeking removal of sanctions without apologizing for the shooting incident. He also threatened further sanctions if necessary, calling Putin's decree "only the first step."
Andrew V. Pestano contributed to this report.