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Steinmeier urges restraint from Russia, Turkey

November 24, 2015

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the downing of a Russian jet by the Turkish air force a "serious incident." NATO members gathered in Brussels have come out in support of Turkey's defense of its airspace.

Downing of Russian Su-24 Jet fighter
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Haberturk Tv Channel

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Moscow and Ankara to show "prudence and common sense" after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet along the Syrian border. He said he hoped that the downing of the warplane would not hamper fresh talks on solving the Syrian civil war - after years of international gridlock on the conflict.

"What we must hope for is that this occurrence will not deal a setback to the encouraging first talks, which offer a small hope of de-escalating the Syrian conflict," Steinmeier said in Berlin.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed hopes for a peace process in SyriaImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Warnand

The Social Democrat also called on both Russia and Turkey, a NATO member, to take responsibility for the event and asked them to enter a dialogue.

"A lot now hinges on what the further reactions from Moscow and Ankara look like," he said.

Turkey sticks to its official account

Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu considered the matter a case of national defense, saying that the world needed to know that his country was prepared to take "all necessary measures" to safeguard its stability.

Steinmeier stressed that the causes behind the shooting down of the plane should be investigated, as Russia continued to reject the official narrative given by the Turkish government, saying that the Su-24 warplane had repeatedly violated Turkish air space after ten seperate warning signals. Russia, meanwhile, asserts that the plane crashed in Syria, and was shot in Syrian airspace.

NATO announces full support

Meanwhile NATO ambassadors gathered in Brussels after Turkey called for an extraordinary meeting after the downing of the Russian warplane. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO stood in solidarity with Turkey, while calling for "calm and de-escalation."

Stoltenberg said that the situation was serious, but stressed that he hoped for renewed contacts between Turkey and Russia.

Reuters news agency said that not all NATO diplomats were unequivocally in support of Turkey and reported that many had expressed concern that Turkey had not simply escorted the Russian fighter jet out of its airspace.

One diplomat, who declined to be named, told Reuters: "There are other ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents."

Assessments provided by NATO allies were, however, consistent with Turkish reports saying that the warplane had violated Turkey's airspace. NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero added that NATO was "monitoring the situation closely."

Search for the pilots

Turkish officials meanwhile said they believed that the two pilots from the jet fighter were still alive. A Turkish government official told Reuters news agency that they might be held by Syrian rebels.

"Our units, who received the information that the two pilots were alive, are working to get them from opposition rebels safely," the official said.

Unverified reports had surfaced earlier saying that at least one of the pilots had been killed during the incident.

ss/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)