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Lavrov to meet Turkish FM for 1st time since plane downing

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today he was willing to meet his Turkish counterpart this week for the two countries’ first high-level face-to-face talks since Ankara shot down one of Moscow’s warplanes.

Lavrov said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was “insisting” on holding talks on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade tomorrow and on Friday.

“We will not be evading this contact”, Lavrov said. “We will hear what Mr. Cavusoglu has to say. Perhaps there will be something new after what has already been said publicly.”

Ties between Russia and NATO member Turkey have badly strained after Ankara last week shot down the Russian plane along its border with Syria.

Both sides have squabbled furiously over whether the jet breached Turkey’s air space.

Moscow has unleashed a raft of sanctions against Ankara, including banning imports of some Turkish foods, stopping the sale of package holidays to the country and reintroducing visas for Turkish visitors.

President Vladimir Putin snubbed a meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the climate conference in France on Monday, after Lavrov had earlier scrapped a visit to Istanbul in the immediate wake of the plane downing.

Erdogan has rejected Putin’s demands to apologise over the incident, saying that Turkey was acting well within its rights to protect its border.

US President Barack Obama yesterday met Erdogan and called on both leaders to end their dispute and focus on fighting the common enemy Islamic State group.

Asked by a journalist today what Ankara could possibly do to mend relations, Lavrov said relations can no longer be “business as usual” due to the “hostile” act against Moscow.

“I am not going to talk about what Turkey should do. I believe our colleagues, our Turkish neighbours, should understand themselves what they must do,” he said, without elaborating.