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Putin ‘saddened’ by death of Turkish troops

9 February 2017 22:34

 

Moscow has “expressed condolences” to Ankara over the accidental death of three Turkish soldiers in Russian counter-terrorism air raids in Syria.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russian President Vladimir Putin had called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Thursday to discuss the incident in the flashpoint Syrian town of al-Bab, where the two countries are conducting operations.

During the phone call, Putin “expressed condolences to his colleague over the incident that took place early Thursday morning, when Turkish servicemen were killed as a result of incoordination in Russian Air Force airstrikes against terrorists during the joint operation to liberate al-Bab” from the Daesh Takfiri terror group, Peskov said.

He further noted that the two officials had agreed to step up military coordination against Daesh in Syria and actively try to advance the Astana and Geneva peace talks on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Turkish army confirmed in a statement that the Russian leader had voiced “sadness” over the “accident.”

A Russia warplane, which was targeting Daesh terrorists in al-Bab, “accidentally hit a building used by Turkish Army units,” killing three soldiers and wounding 11 others, the statement read.

Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015.

Russian Su-25 ground attack jets prepare to land after returning from Syria at a Russian air base in Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Russia, March 16, 2016. (Photo by AP)

Turkey also began a major military intervention in Syria in August, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, in a move denounced by Damascus as a breach of its sovereignty.

Erdogan said at that time that the operation, dubbed Euphrates Shield, was aimed at “terror groups” such as Daesh and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a US-backed Kurdish group based in Syria.

In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian jet over Syria claiming that it had crossed into the Turkish airspace. A Russian pilot lost his life in the attack.

Russian military officials pay their respects as they stand by the coffin of Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, after his body was transported from Turkey, at a morning ceremony in the Chkalovsky military airport outside Moscow, November 30, 2015. (Photo by AP) 

Ties between Moscow and Ankara soured after Erdogan initially refused to apologize for the attack, prompting the Kremlin to impose a series of sanctions on Turkey.

However, the two sides mended their relations last year after the Turkish president finally offered an apology to Moscow.

Russia and Turkey, along with Iran, are now acting as mediators in revived peace talks between the Damascus government and opposition groups.

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