Russia said on Friday it would suspend its visa-free regime with Turkey from January, as leaders from the two countries traded tit-for-tat accusations over Ankara’s downing of a Russian bomber.
“A decision has been made to halt the visa-free regime with Turkey,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters after talks with Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. “This decision will enter into force from January 1, 2016.”
Russia’s top diplomat added that Moscow questions whether Turkey is genuinely commited to fighting terrorism.
“We have more and more questions about the activity of Ankara and its real commitment to eradicating terrorism,” Lavrov told a news conference.
Moscow’s statement came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia not to “play with fire”.
“We don’t want these relations to suffer harm in any way…” Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey, before adding “Russia is obliged to prove its allegations, otherwise it will be considered a liar because of those grave and unfair accusations targeting Turkey”.
Erdogan wants “face to face” meeting with Putin
Turkey says the Russian plane strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings but Russia insisted it did not cross the border and accused Ankara of a “planned provocation.”
Erdogan said that he wanted to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris.
“I would like to meet him face to face on Monday”, the Turkish president said.
Putin has so far refused to contact Erdogan because Ankara does not want to apologise for the downing of the jet, Putin aide Yuri Ushakov said on Friday.
Russia’s lower house speaker, Sergei Naryshkin, said on Friday that Moscow had the right to make a military response, calling the incident an “intentional murder of our soldiers”.
Relations between the former Cold War antagonists are at their worst in recent memory after Turkey shot down the jet near the Syrian border on Monday. Russia has already threatened economic retaliation against Ankara, which Erdogan has dismissed as “emotional” and “unfitting”.
The war of words between the two countries risks harming the Syrian peace process, the top UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura underscored on Friday from Stockholm.
FRANCE with AFP, Reuters, AP