Turkey is defending its decision last week to shoot down a Russian warplane that was carrying out airstrikes against Syrian rebels, calling it “a defensive action” and ruling out an apology.
“No country can ask us to apologize [for the incident] because [we were] doing our job,” Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, said. “Our action was a defensive action.”
His comments were made at a news conference in Brussels with Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, the alliance of which Turkey is a member. Turkish media quoted Stoltenberg as saying: “Turkey has the right to defend itself and [its] airspace.”
As my colleague Marina Koren reported last week, Turkey said it shot down the Russian plane after the aircraft violated Turkish airspace and ignored 10 warnings to leave. The pilot was killed by rebels as he parachuted to safety. His body was flown home to Russia on Monday. The co-pilot was rescued in a Russian special-forces operation.
It later emerged the plane was in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds. An irate Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, called the incident “a stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists.” Russia demanded an apology and announced measures, including economic steps, against Turkey. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, are not expected to meet in Paris, where they are attending the U.N. climate summit, though Erdogan said he was “saddened” by the incident.
The incursion was not the first made by a Russian aircraft into Turkish airspace, but the dispute over the downed airplane threatens to undermine fragile attempts to build a global coalition against the Islamic State, with other world leaders getting involved in the rhetoric. Russia is targeting rebel groups, including the Islamic State, that are opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The U.S. and its allies, including Turkey, are also operating against the Islamic State, but they support the relatively moderate, anti-Assad rebel factions. It was one of those groups, a Turkmen rebel organization, that the Russian plane was targeting last week.
But after the November 13 attack on Paris, Francois Hollande, the French president, has been trying to bring together a coalition, which includes Russia, the U.S., Turkey, and others to fight the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 130 people. The downing of the Russian airplane complicates those efforts.