Moscow and Damascus were not behind an air strike in northern Syria that killed four Turkish soldiers, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. “Neither Russia nor Syria, its air force, had anything to do with this,” Lavrov told a news conference in the southern Turkish resort of Alanya, alongside his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
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Turkey earlier blamed the Syrian regime for the November 24 strike, which came on the first anniversary of the shooting down of a Russian military warplane by the Turkish air force. The 2015 incident sparked an unprecedented crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia, who remain on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict.
Ankara backs rebels fighting for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Moscow is an Assad ally providing military support to the regime in Damascus. Turkey has embarked on an ambitious military operation inside Syria since August, supporting opposition fighters who have so far retaken Jarabulus, Al Rai and the symbolically important town of Dabiq from Islamic State (IS) jihadists. The Turkish army blamed the Syrian regime for last week’s deadly strike, while Turkish media reported the Turkish troops were killed by IS group.
“To concentrate on fighting terrorists we must continue to improve coordination,” Lavrov said. “We coordinate with the US-led coalition, of which Turkey is a part, with the goal of avoiding unplanned incidents. So, through these channels, it would make sense to check who was flying and who was not flying.”