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Turkey, Russia hold first high-level bilateral talks since plane crisis

The foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia have met in Belgrade in the first high-level bilateral meeting between the two nations since the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey along its border with Syria.

The meeting took place at a time of heightened tensions between the two countries and follows a stern warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Thursday

vowed to make Turkey regret

its action.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

The meeting between Russia's Sergei Lavrov and Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu took place on the sidelines of the gathering of the ministerial council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Belgrade.

"We met with the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry on his insistent request, we heard nothing new," Lavrov said at a news conference. He added that Russia too repeated its position on the downing of the jet.

Lavrov’s counterpart Cavusoglu said it would be unrealistic to expect all problems to be solved with Russia after a single meeting, but it was important to maintain open communication channels.

"We expressed our sadness and expressed our condolences for the Russian pilot who lost his life," he added.

Attending the OSCE meeting, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier called for unity. He said "the situation is too dangerous, and freedom and stability too fragile, for us to counter each other." in an apparent reference to the relations between Russia and Turkey.

Turkish jets downed a Russian bomber

on November 24 citing an airspace violation. Russia insists that the fighter jet was flying over Syria and has accused Syria of deliberate provocation.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu

"The incident on the 24th of November ... should not be confused with our fighting against our common enemy of Daesh, terrorism and should not be abused for political objectives," Cavusoglu said in his address at the OSCE conference. Daesh is an Arabic term for the self-declared Islamic State group.

Russian Sanctions

Russia has

imposed several sanctions

on Turkey in retaliation, including a ban on the import of some Turkish foods, and reintroduced visas for Turkish nationals. It also

suspended talks between the two countries over the major TurkStream pipeline project

, which would carry Russian natural gas to western Turkey.

President Putin, who branded the incident a war crime, rejected an offer from his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a meeting on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris earlier this week. The two leaders have accused each other of being involved in illegal oil trading with the Islamic State group.

ap/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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