The Kremlin “lacked enthusiasm” to mend ties with Turkey after the downing of a Russian jet jeopardized the countries' diplomatic relationship, the president of Russia's republic of Dagestan has revealed.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey increased dramatically after a Russian fighter-jet was downed by Turkish forces in November 2015. Moscow maintains that the jet was in Syrian air space, while Ankara says that the plane did not respond to several warnings after it encroached on Turkish territory.
The incident caused Russia to boycott a large selection of Turkish goods, as well as place a ban on package holidays to the country.
A letter of apology from [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan ultimately ended the standoff between the two sides in July, with Ankara promising to pay compensation to Russia and the dead pilot's family.
Dagestan's President Ramazan Abdulatipov,
who helped to mediate between Moscow and
Ankara, said that Russia, "had to
overcome a psychological barrier” in the
“Vladimir [Putin] had a good relationship with [Turkish President] Erdogan. Reconciling two friends is much more complicated than people then making peace between strangers,” he said.
Abdulatipov would not confirm which side had initiated talks, but the Kremlin publicly rejected a proposed working group between both sides in May.
Erdogan also showed signs of unwillingness, and did not apologize for the downing in the first draft of a letter sent to Putin, said Abdulatipov.
An apology was one of Russia's key conditions for normalizing the relationship, alongside compensation for the pilot's family, he said.
The letter was eventually sent to Putin via Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Abdulatipov said.
Russia and Ankara's
estrangement saw Turkey ranked as an “enemy” by 29
percent of Russian respondents in
poll by the independent Levada Center at
the start of June 2016. The countries have
traditionally enjoyed a good relationship, with only 1 percent of
Russians judging Turkey as hostile before the jet's downing in 2015.