Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, here at the White House on March 31, apologized in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin for Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane in November, the Kremlin said Monday. Pool photo by Ron Sachs/UPI | License Photo
MOSCOW, June 27 (UPI) -- The president of Turkey apologized for the downing of a Russian warplane over the Turkey-Syria border in November, the Kremlin said Monday.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said Russian President Vladimir Putin received a letter from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which Erdogan expressed "sympathy and deep condolences" for the death of the plane's pilot. The letter also stated Turkey had no "deliberate plan to shoot down a Russian plane" and noted Russia is "a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations."
The plane, an Su-24 fighter plane, crashed in the mountains of Syria's Latakia region after it was shot down by a Turkish air force plane chasing it. The pilot, Oleg Peshkov, was killed by militants on the ground after he safely ejected, and the plane's injured navigator was taken to Russia's Syrian airbase by Syrian government troops.
Turkey said the plane was warned 10 times by radio that it was in Turkish airspace; Russia said the plane stayed in Syrian airspace and the pilot heard no warnings.
Tensions between Turkey and Russia increased after the incident, with Russia angered by the lack of an apology. Russia responded by suspending package tours to Turkey and imposing trade sanctions.
The Kremlin News Service said Erdogan's letter included condolences to the family of the pilot.
"We recovered the body of the Russian pilot from the Syrian opposition to take it to Turkey. Pre-funeral procedures were organized in conformity with religious and military procedures. And we did it all at a due level," the letter said. "I am saying, 'I am sorry.' I share your grief with all my heart. We consider the family of the Russian pilot as a Turkish family. We are ready for any initiative in the name of easing the pain and gravity of the damage we have done."
The Turkish government has not yet commented on the letter, or on Peskov's statement.