Lavrov: Turkey downing jet ‘planned provocation’ but not going to war

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane “looks like a planned provocation,” but that Russia is not going to war with Turkey. Lavrov said the incident will make Russia reconsider its relationship with Turkey. He canceled a planned trip to Turkey on Wednesday, but spoke with Turkey’s foreign minister and the two agreed to meet in the coming days.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu told lawmakers Turkey has no intention of straining ties with its “friend and neighbor” Russia.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his country was simply defending its security when Turkish fighter planes shot down a Russian jet, and that he does not want any escalation with Russia. Speaking at an event in Istanbul, Erdogan said the plane crashed in Syria but was still inside Turkey’s airspace when it was hit Tuesday.

Other Turkish officials said that the plane was as deep as 2 kilometers over the border for about 17 seconds, and that its forces issued 10 warnings that were ignored before they fired.

Russia insists the plane never left Syrian territory.

US comment
A U.S. official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity that the U.S. believes the plane returned to Syrian airspace before being hit, while diplomats speaking to The New York Times said the plane crossed back into Syria after being hit.

Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday “dangerous escalation” in relations between Russia and NATO cannot be excused, even in the case of border protection.

​President Vladimir Putin called the incident a “stab in the back” and accused Turkey of supporting terrorists.

Russia has announced several responses. Defense minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday the military will send its advanced S-400 missile system to Syria’s Latakia province, which borders Turkey. It is also deploying the guided-missile cruiser Moskva to the area.

Meanwhile, one of the pilots who parachuted from the plane arrived Wednesday at a Russian base in Latakia after being rescued by members of the Syrian army. Alexander Orlov, Russia’s ambassador to France, said the second pilot in the plane was “killed in a savage way.”

A rescue helicopter sent to the crash site was shot down by rebels, killing one person on board.

Erdogan and U.S. president Barack Obama spoke by phone Tuesday and agreed on the need to de-escalate tensions and prevent further incidents.

‘Ongoing problem’
The White House said in a statement the leaders voiced their commitment to developing a transitional political process for peace in Syria, and international support for defeating Islamic State extremists. The statement also reiterated U.S. support for Turkey’s right to defend its airspace.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama, speaking in Washington, cited the downing of a Russian fighter jet as evidence of an “ongoing problem” with Russia’s military operations in Syria.

Speaking alongside French president Francois Hollande at the White House, Obama said U.S. authorities were still collecting details of the shootdown, while noting that Russian military aircraft have been targeting moderate Syrian opposition groups very close to Turkey’s borders. He also said the incident shows a need to move quickly toward a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian conflict.

NATO meeting
The shootdown triggered an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels. Afterward, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation grouping supports the territorial integrity of Turkey, calling the member country “our NATO ally.”

Turkish officials have issued multiple warnings about aircraft violating its airspace during Syria’s 4½-year civil war. Its forces shot down a Syrian helicopter in 2013 and last month took down an unidentified drone that crossed into its territory. Turkey also has complained about at least two instances of Russian jets flying in its airspace.

After the earlier Russian incursions into Turkey, the United States deployed six F-15 jets from Britain to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to help the NATO ally secure its skies.