Russian Foreign Minister Cancels Visit to Turkey

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cancelled a planned trip to Turkey

Published: 24th November 2015 08:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th November 2015 08:47 PM   |  A+A-

Mideast Turkey Syria _Shar
By AP

BEIRUT: The latest on the Russian warplane shot down by Turkey on Tuesday (All times local):

5:02 p.m.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cancelled a planned trip to Turkey in the wake of the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey.

The meeting between Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart had been scheduled for Wednesday.

Lavrov was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying that President Vladimir Putin "directly said that (the downing) cannot but affect Russian-Turkish relations. In this regard, it decided to cancel the meeting, which was planned for tomorrow."

4:43 p.m.

Syria's information minister says the shooting down of a Russian warplane is a "new crime" that will be added to the record of insurgent groups fighting in Syria and the countries that finance and arm them.

Omran al-Zoubi specified Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar â countries that have been among the strongest backers of insurgent groups trying to remove President Bashar Assad from power.

Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday, accusing it of violating Turkish airspace. Moscow says the plane was inside Syria when it was shot down.

4:35 p.m.

One of Russia's largest travel agencies says it will suspend selling package tours to Turkey as of Wednesday, citing security concerns.

Natali Tours said in a statement Tuesday its offices in Russia and former Soviet republics would stop sending tourists to Turkey due to "an unstable political situation."

It also cited Putin's decree that suspended flights earlier this month to Egypt on security concerns in the aftermath of the Oct. 31 plane crash over the Sinai peninsula.

Nearly 4.5 million Russians visited Turkey last year, 12 percent of all tourists there, second only to Germany.

4:20 p.m.

Czech leaders say a lack of a common strategy and proper cooperation of all the players involved in the Syrian conflict are to blame for the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey.

Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek says: "Because there's not a clear agreement of the international community on a common strategy and because the enemy is not clearly defined, everyone fights a war in their own interest and we can end up fighting each other."

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka echoed that Tuesday calling it "an unpleasant surprise which shows there's still no good coordination among the players in the region." Sobotka says the incident shows a necessity of an international deal and better direct communication among those whose armed forces fight in the region.

Czech President Milos Zeman says he considers the Turkish action "a too radical move which only increases the tension in the region."

3:55 p.m.

Dozens of people have gathered outside the Russian Consulate in Istanbul to protest Russian operations in Turkmen regions of Syria.

The protesters gathered on Tuesday, shortly after Turkey shot down a Russian plane that it said violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings for it to leave. The plane was operating over the Turkmen Mountain region in Syria's Latakia province.

The protesters chanted: "Turkmen brothers are not alone" and "Killer Russia, get out of Syria."

3:30 p.m.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has defended Turkey's shooting down of a Russian fighter jet at the border with Syria, saying Turkey has the right "to take all kinds of measures" against border violations according to international laws.

Davutoglu said Tuesday Turkey will not hesitate to take all steps to protect the country's security, calling it Turkey's "national duty." He stressed that the action did not amount to an aggression against any foreign territory.

Davutoglu also called on the international community to work toward "extinguishing the fire that is burning in Syria."

Turkey said it shot down the Russian plane after it violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings.

3:20 p.m.

A spokesman for the rebel group that captured a Russian pilot whose plane was shot down by Turkey says rebels are conducting search operations in the area to find the second crew member.

Jahed Ahmad of the 10th Brigade in the Coast, a group affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, said his group would consider exchanging the body of the Russian pilot they are holding with prisoners held by the Syrian government.

Ahmad said on Tuesday about the Russian pilot: "This is the body of a Russian member of the military who was killing Syrian people."

He added: "We have the body and we will see what to do with it."

3 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Turkey's decision to down a Russian warplane near the Syria border a "stab in the back."

Speaking at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Putin on Tuesday accepted his condolences on the death of a Russian pilot who was reportedly captured and dead.

Putin said the Russian Su-24 jet was shot by a missile from a Turkish jet over Syria about 1 kilometer (just over a half-mile) away from the Turkish border, which he described as a "stab in the back by the terrorists' accomplices."

Putin warned that the incident would have "significant consequences" for its relations with Turkey and criticized Ankara for turning to NATO to discuss the incident instead of first explaining to Russia what happened.

2:25 p.m.

Defense analysts say Russia seems to be responding cautiously to the downing of one of its warplanes on the Turkey-Syria border.

Natasha Kuhrt, lecturer in International Peace and Security at King's College London, said Russian television reports "have mainly been blaming the anti-Assad rebels inside Syria, and not mentioning Turkey at all. The general thrust is to try to play down this incident."

"Relations have been very strained between Russia and Turkey of late so Moscow will be trying its utmost to contain the damage this might cause," she said.

Shashank Joshi of defense think tank the Royal United Services Institute said the large number of nations in the air over Syria had led to a dangerous and unpredictable situation.

He said there would be intense diplomatic efforts to defuse the situation, but the combination of crowded airspace, Russian probing of Turkey's border and diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Istanbul created a "real toxic cocktail that can easily erupt into crisis."

2:10 p.m.

NATO will hold an emergency meeting after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet along the Syrian border that Ankara said had violated its airspace.

Tuesday's meeting of the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's main decision-making body, will be held at Turkey's request, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements.

The council, composed of ambassadors from the United States and NATO's 27 other member countries, will convene at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT)

The official said "the aim of this extraordinary NAC meeting is for Turkey to inform allies about the downing of a Russian airplane."

On Oct. 5, following two earlier Russian violations of Turkish airspace reported by Turkey, the NAC accused Russia of "irresponsible behavior," and sternly warned Moscow it was courting "extreme danger" by sending its warplanes into the skies of an alliance member country.

1:50 p.m.

A spokesman for the rebel group that captured a Russian pilot whose plane was shot down over northwestern Syria says he was dead upon landing.

Jahed Ahmad of the 10th Brigade in the Coast tells The Associated Press that the two Russian crew members tried to land in their parachutes in government-held areas after they ejected, but came under fire from members of his group.

He adds that rebels shot one of the pilots, who landed dead on the ground on Tuesday.

The fate of the second pilot was not immediately known.

The group released a video showing gunmen standing around a blond pilot whose face was bruised and appeared dead.

1:40 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved a new government led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu following the ruling party's victory in Turkey's Nov. 1 election.

Erdogan approved a Cabinet list presented by Davutoglu on Tuesday, hours after Turkey shot down a Russian plane it said violated its airspace and ignored repeated warnings.

The ruling party regained the parliamentary majority it had lost in a June vote. The Nov. 1 election was a re-run called by Erdogan after Davutoglu's efforts for a coalition government failed.

Davutoglu was heading an interim government that was appointed to take Turkey to November vote.

1:30 p.m.

A video has surfaced purporting to show a Russian pilot wounded and immobile after Turkey shot down a Russian plane along the Syrian border, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace.

The video posted Monday shows armed rebels gathered around the soldier lying on his back on the ground with bruises and blood on his face. It was not immediately clear if he was dead.

A voice on the video is heard saying "a Russian pilot," while another says: "The 10th Division has captured a Russian pilot, God is greatest."

Turkey said the plane had ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies.

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