Turkey has no wish to escalate tensions between itself and Russia but vows to defend it borders, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.
In a speech televised in Istanbul, one day after two Turkish F-16s fighter jets shot down a Russian SU-24 war plane on its Syrian border, the president said:
“We have no intention to escalate this incident. We are just defending our security and the rights of our brothers. Turkey has never favoured tensions and crisis, it has and will always favour peace and dialogue”.
He added, however that, “No one should expect us to remain silent when our border security and our sovereignty are being violated.”
Turkey said it shot down the Russian war plane after it repeatedly violated air space above the Turkish border. Moscow however, insists that the plane never strayed from Syrian air space.
Erdoğan said that the incident early on 24th November demonstrated “what kind of consequences careless steps could have”.
He revealed that two Turkish citizens had been injured by pieces of the Russian plane that fell on the Turkish side of the border.
The president dismissed Russian claims that the plane had been on an anti-terror mission against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in northern Syria, saying that the area was populated by Syria’s Turkmen minority.
“No one should ever fool themselves: There are no Daesh [ISIL] elements in the Bayırbucak region where Turkmen live,” said Erdoğan.
Meanwhile, The Supreme Military Council (YAS) will convene on 26th November, chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Members of the Council including Chief of General Staff General Hulusi Akar, the Defence Minister, Force Commanders, Army Commanders, the Gendarmerie Forces Commander, Navy Commanders, and four star Generals, will participate at the top defence meeting, which is held twice a year.
The meeting comes as Turkey and the US are in talks ahead of a possible operation between Mare and Jerablus in northern Syria, aiming to create a “terror-free zone,” and also amid increasing attacks on Turkmens in Syria by Russian air strikes.