Last updated: 26 June, 2012

Russia says Syria downing of Turkey jet not provocation

Russia on Tuesday said its regional ally Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet should not be viewed as a provocation and urged all nations to tone down their rhetoric over the incident.

“We believe it is important that the incident is not viewed as a provocation or an intentional action, and that it does not lead to destabilising the situation,” the foreign ministry said in its first comment on Friday’s Phantom 4 jet downing.

“The escalation of political propaganda — including on the international level — is especially dangerous when there are efforts under way to mobilise all influential outside players” in arranging a lasting peace process.

The statement was issued only moments after Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had accepted an invitation to attend an international meeting on the conflict in Geneva on Saturday.

The UN announcement came as a surprise because the meeting has still not been formally agreed by Western and regional governments amid infighting over participation in the talks of close Syria and Russia partner Iran.

Russia supplies air defence systems to Syria and had remained conspicuously silent about the plane downing even as NATO leaders met to consider the Western military bloc’s response.

The Moscow statement urged all sides to exercise “restraint” and for Turkey and Syria to establish direct dialogue that could help avoid a potential military escalation between the two uneasy neighbours.

“We believe that the best line of conduct in this situation is restraint and constructive cooperation between Turkey and Syria aimed at clearing up all the circumstances of the incident and preventing such tragic events from happening again,” the ministry statement said.