In the bitter debate over where a Russian warplane was flying when Turkish aircraft shot it down, the United States took Turkey’s side Monday.
The available information indicates the warplane shot down last week was in Turkish airspace, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said at a Monday press briefing.
Moscow has steadfastly maintained its jet was over Syria when it was downed.
The State Department announcement came after the body of a Russian pilot who died after the jet was shot down along the Turkey-Syria border was flown back to Russia, according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense.
Col. Oleg Peshkov’s body arrived Monday at the Chkalovsky military airport near Moscow, according to a statement from the ministry.
Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency reported that Peshkov’s body was met by Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu and Russian air force Commander-in-Chief Victor Bondarev.
Peshkov will be buried in Lipetsk, Russia, as requested by his family, Sputnik reported.
Turkey and Russia disagree on whether the Russian plane was in Turkish airspace when it was shot down, as well as whether any warnings went out to the crew.
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Russia says its planes were bombing ISIS militants in the area, though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said only Turkmen — “our brothers and sisters” — were in that region of Syria.
The incident left one pilot dead; another was rescued.
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Erdogan: ‘Let’s talk’
After days of tough talk after the incident, Erdogan struck a more conciliatory tone Saturday, saying his government was “really saddened” by the matter and insisting he did not want to ramp up tensions.
“We wouldn’t have wished this to happen. But, unfortunately, it did,” he said at an event in Balikesir.
“We hope that the tensions with Russia will not grow and result in more saddening incidents.”
Turkish Prime Minister strikes conciliatory tone after downing of Russian jet
Erdogan appealed for dialogue, saying the U.N. climate change conference in Paris, which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to attend, would be a good place to have such talks.
“We tell Russia, ‘Let’s talk about this issue within its boundaries, and let’s settle it,’ ” Erdogan said Saturday. “Let’s not make others happy by escalating it to a level that would hurt all our relations.”
However, his comments fell short of the apology Moscow has demanded.
Putin signs punitive decree
Putin has accused Turkey of trying to bring its relations with Russia to a “dead end,” calling the incident “a stab in the back” and tying Turkey to terrorists.
On Saturday, he signed a decree authorizing punitive economic measures against Turkey.
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The decree partially suspends “visa-free” travel between the countries, mandates that Russian travel agencies stop selling tours to Turkey — a major tourist destination for Russians — and bans charter transportation between the nations, according to Sputnik news.
The decree also prohibits the import of certain Turkish goods and, starting next year, will prevent Russian companies from hiring Turkish citizens, Sputnik said.
The ordeal has raised questions about international leaders’ ability to come together to combat ISIS, which has taken over swaths of Syria and Iraq and claimed attacks in Europe, Asia and Africa.
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