Turkey will not apologize for downing a Russian fighter jet it says violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an exclusive CNN interview Thursday in Ankara.
“I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us,” he said from the Turkish capital. “Those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they simply fulfilled their duties, which consisted of responding to … violations of the rules of engagement. I think this is the essence.”
In a meeting with community leaders in Ankara, Erdogan said, “If the same violation occurs today, Turkey has to react the same way.”
Turkey has repeatedly said it shot down the Russian warplane on Tuesday only after the plane ignored several warnings and entered Turkish airspace.
Russia has contested the claim, and its rescued co-pilot Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin told state media that “there were no warnings — not via the radio, not visually.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said the downing of the Russian jet did not appear spontaneous, but more “like a planned provocation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Moscow on Thursday that the strike was unexpected.
“It did not even come into our mind that we could be struck by a party that we considered to be our ally,” he said. “We considered Turkey to be a friendly country.”
Putin also noted that Russia had informed the United States, Turkey’s ally, of its flight path, and said it was “not possible” the Turkish air force didn’t recognize the Russian aircraft.
“Turkey is a member of this (U.S.-led) coalition and must know that Russians are working there,” he said.
Turkey’s military has released audio it says proves its claim; Russia’s Defense Ministry tweeted Thursday that the audio purporting to capture warnings issued by Turkish pilots to the crew of the downed jet was “a habitual fake.”
Putin has said the plane was attacked a kilometer inside Syrian territory, while Erdogan says it crashed in Turkey, injuring two people, after being in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.
“We knew there were two aircraft. One aircraft went back into Syria, and the second one was still in Turkish airspace and it was shot down by our aircraft,” Erdogan told CNN.