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Turkey-Russia ties still strained

December 14, 2015

Turkey's foreign minister has said Ankara has limited patience with Russia, after a second naval incident in as many days. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman called off a meeting between Putin and Turkey's Erdogan.

Russia's Smetlivy destroyer
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Pavlishak

Russian naval boats on Monday "forced" a Turkish commercial vessel to change course after it failed to move out of the way of an oil rig convoy in the Black Sea, Russian state company Chernomorneftegaz said on Monday.

The company said the Turkish vessel created an "emergency situation" that led to a Russian naval missile and patrol boat intervening. It did not elaborate on how the Turkish ship was forced to change course.

"Acting in violation of international norms preventing a collision of ships at sea and commonly accepted norms of navigation, a Turkish vessel did not give way to the convoy," the Crimea-based company said.

It was not clear when the Black Sea incident occurred, but the announcement comes a day after Russia said one of its destroyers in the Aegean fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing boat after it came to close to the warship.

However, speaking to Turkey's Dogan news agency, the owner of the fishing boat said no shots were fired and accused Russia of lying.

Tension builds

The two incidents add further strain to relations between Moscow and Ankara after a Russian jet was shot down along the border with Syria last month, creating the biggest crisis in bilateral ties since the end of the Cold War.

Russia responded to the jet downing with retaliatory economic measures and a more aggressive military posture against Turkey.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman told state news agency TASS that Putin would not meet his Turkish opposite number, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a bilateral summit in St Petersburg on Tuesday: "It will not happen. It is not planned," Peskov said of the December 15 meeting.

The two countries have been at odds over Syria since the early days of the five-year conflict, but differences boiled over with the Russian military intervention to bolster the Assad regime.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday said in an interview with Italian media that his country would like good relations with Russia, but there was a limit to Turkey's patience.

"Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit," Cavusoglu said, adding the Russian destroyer's response to the fishing boat was "exaggerated."

On the issue of the downed Russian jet, Cavusoglu claimed that it was not the first incursion into Turkish airspace, and that "the Russians had already been warned several times, and we never wanted it to come to this."

Meanwhile, the Russian military has called for "an unbiased investigation of the destruction of the Russian warplane in Syrian skies," as Moscow continues to dispute Turkey's claim that the plane crossed into Ankara's airspace.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)