Secretary of State John Kerry hopped on the phone with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, today to “offer condolences” for the “loss of life in yesterday’s incident with Turkey,” the State Department said, referring to Turkey’s shootdown of a Russian jet that Ankara said crossed into Turkish airspace.
Kerry “urged for calm and for dialogue between Turkish and Russian officials in the days ahead.”
“He also stressed the need for both sides not to allow this incident to escalate tensions between their two countries or in Syria,” the State Department added in a readout of the call. “The Secretary underscored the importance of progress toward a diplomatic solution in Syria continuing unabated.”
That comes on the heels of a call President Obama had with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday in which Obama “expressed U.S. and NATO support for Turkey’s right to defend its sovereignty.”
“The leaders agreed on the importance of deescalating the situation and pursuing arrangements to ensure that such incidents do not happen again,” the White House said. “They reiterated their shared commitment to efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters Wednesday that Moscow will “deploy an S-300 air defense system at our air force base in Syria” — less than 30 miles from the Turkish border.
“This is not the only measure we are taking. I hope that this measure, together with our other steps, will be sufficient to ensure the safety of our flights,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry warned Russian citizens against traveling to Turkey, a popular vacation spot. Putin warned that “our citizens in Turkey could face substantial risks.”
The pilot of the Russian Su-24 died; Putin confirmed the navigator was rescued.
“I think he is at our base now, at the airfield,” Putin said. “Like everyone else who took part in this operation, including the rescue operation, he will receive state decorations. The Defense Ministry has already made this proposal. The plane’s captain will be awarded the Gold Star Medal of the Hero of the Russian Federation posthumously.”
Yesterday the spokesman for U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria confirmed that Turkey delivered 10 warnings to the two Russian jets. One got out of Turkish airspace and the other was fired upon. “We were able to hear everything that was going on,” Col. Steve Warren said from Baghdad. “Obviously, you know, these are on open channels. I’m sure there’s others who heard it all as well.”
The Russian pilot has denied there was any such warning. The Turkish military today released a recording of the warnings, which told the planes to “change your heading south immediately.”
A Middle East Airlines pilot who was flying out of Beirut picked up the transmissions, recorded the exchange and handed the recording over to Al-Arabiya.
The pilot told the satellite channel he’d heard “similar warnings two or three times a week, on every flight I took for the past month.”
“What was different this time is that the Turkish officer was shouting and seemed tense, while the warnings were much calmer in previous times… this is why I knew something was going to happen,” he added.