Turkey ‘temporarily’ suspends Syria airstrikes

NATO member Turkey has “temporarily” suspended air strikes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Syria after the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border sparked a major row with Moscow, local media reported on Friday.

Turkish F-16 jets on Tuesday shot down a Russian warplane which Ankara said had breached its air space. Russia on Thursday vowed to carry out broad retaliatory measures against Turkey’s economy.

Turkey, a member of a US-led coalition fighting ISIS, has halted air raids against the group in Syria in order to avoid any further crises, theHurriyet newspaper reported.

“Both sides agreed to act cautiously until they re-establish dialogue channels to reduce tensions,” the paper said, citing security sources.

Government officials contacted by AFP were not immediately available for comment.

Mixed messages

The downing of the plane sparked a grave crisis in relations between the two countries, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it a “stab in the back” and demanding an apology from Turkish leadership.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has angrily rebuffed the Kremlin’s demand for an apology and said Putin snubbed a phone call from him after the incident.

But later Friday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu sought to ease tensions with Moscow, calling for unity against ISIS.

“While the measures to defend our territory will remain in place, Turkey will work with Russia and our allies to calm tensions,” Davutoglu wrote in Friday’s edition of The Times in London.

“The downing of an unidentified jet in Turkish airspace was not – and is not – an act against a specific country,” he said.

Davutoglu emphasized that the international community should unite against a “common enemy.”

“The international community must not turn on itself. Otherwise the only victors will be Daesh… and the Syrian regime,” he said, using an Arabic term for ISIS. “The focus should be to tackle, head-on, the international threat that Daesh poses, securing the future of Syria and seeking a solution to the current refugee crisis.”