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Russia: Turkey apologized for shooting down Russian jet

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2016)

turkeyTurkish President Tayyip Erdogan has apologized to Russian leader Vladimir Putin over last year’s shooting down of a Russian air force jet by Turkey’s military, the Kremlin said on Monday, opening the way for Russia to lift economic sanctions.

The Russian jet was shot down, with the loss of the pilot, in November while it took part in the Kremlin’s military campaign in Syria. Ankara said it acted lawfully because the plane had crossed into Turkish air space; Moscow denied that happened.

“I want to once again express my sympathy and deep condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who died and I say: ‘I’m sorry,'” the Kremlin, in a statement, cited Erdogan as saying in the letter.

A spokesman for Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, confirmed the letter was sent to Putin, though he did not refer explicitly to an apology. He said that Erdogan, in the letter, had expressed regret and asked the family of the pilot to “excuse us.”

The Kremlin responded to the downing of the plane by slapping trade restrictions on Ankara — including freezing work on a pipeline to ship Russian gas to Europe via Turkey, and advising Russian tourists to avoid Turkish resorts.

Putin had said those measures would only be lifted if Erdogan personally issued an apology. There was no word from the Russian authorities on Monday on ending the sanctions.

If the dispute is now on the way to being resolved, that could ease some of the diplomatic tensions around the Syria conflict. Moscow supports Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad while Ankara backs rebels who are trying to oust him.

In its statement, the Kremlin said Putin had received a letter from Erdogan “in which the Turkish leader expressed his desire to resolve the situation connected to the downing of a Russian military aircraft”.

“The letter states, in particular, that Russia is a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations,” the Kremlin statement said.

Turkey’s efforts to mend damaged ties come as the Middle East is polarized by Syria’s civil war, the rise of Islamic State threatens regional security, and as its relations with Europe and the United States are strained.

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The Kremlin statement said Erdogan had expressed his readiness to do everything necessary to restore the traditionally friendly relations between Turkey and Russia, and also to jointly fight terrorism.

After the Kremlin revealed the existence of Erdogan’s letter, the Turkish lira firmed to 2.9330 against the U.S. dollar from 2.9430 beforehand. It later lost some of the gains to trade at 2.9385 at 1448 GMT.

The Kremlin’s announcement came hours after Turkey and Israel said they would normalize ties after a six-year rupture, a rare rapprochement in the divided Middle East.

Days after taking office last month, Turkey’s new Prime Minister Binali Yildirim – a close Erdogan ally – said Turkey needed to “increase its friends and decrease its enemies”, in what appeared a tacit admission that his predecessor’s policies had left the NATO member sidelined.

Under former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Ankara was insistent on Assad’s departure as the only way of stabilising Syria, setting it at odds with Moscow.

Turkey’s worst nightmare in Syria has meanwhile come true: Russian support has enabled Assad to remain in power, while Kurdish militia fighters have benefited from U.S. support as they battle Islamic State, bolstering their position in territory adjacent to the Turkish border.

Written by: Reuters

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Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, has died aged 91

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(Last Updated On: September 30, 2020)

Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, has died at the age of 91, state media reported.

Sheikh Sabah’s 83-year-old half-brother, Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed, has been named by the cabinet as his successor.

In a message of condolence to the royal family and Kuwaiti nationals, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said it was with “great regret and emotion” that he had received the news of the Emir’s death. 

“The Emir of Kuwait was one of the most important and prominent figures in the Islamic world and one of the good friends of Afghanistan. During his reign, he always had good intentions towards our country and paid special attention to the development of friendly and fraternal relations between the two countries,” said Ghani in a statement issued by the Presidential Palace.

“His Highness Sheikh Sabah during his reign performed valuable services for the advancement, progress and welfare of the people of his country,” said Ghani adding that he will always be remembered for the good work he had done. 

“On behalf of the government and people of Afghanistan, I express my deepest condolences and sympathy to the officials of the Kingdom of Kuwait, the family of the late Emir of Kuwait and the people of that country. I pray to God Almighty,” said Ghani. 

Afghanistan’s chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, who is currently on a three-day visit to Pakistan, also passed on his condolences. 

In a message on Twitter, Abdullah said: “Deeply saddened to hear the demise of His Royal Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, Amir of Kuwait. My thoughts and prayers are with Amir’s family, the people & government of Kuwait. His soul may rest in peace.”

The Emir had ruled the oil-rich Gulf state since 2006 and had overseen its foreign policy for more than 50 years and had been dubbed the “dean of Arab diplomacy” for his efforts to restore relations with states that backed Iraq during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, when Kuwait was invaded by Iraqi forces.

He also often acted as a mediator in regional disputes, including the ongoing diplomatic stand-off between Saudi Arabia, its allies and Qatar.

 

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Flash flood warning issued for nine provinces

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(Last Updated On: September 29, 2020)

Afghanistan’s Meteorological Department (AMD) on Tuesday issued a flash flood warning for nine provinces, including Kabul and Parwan. 

AMD said on its website rain and possible flooding can be expected in Kabul, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Kapisa, Panjshir, Parwan, Nangarhar and Badakhshan provinces over the next 24 hours. 

Rainfall of between 10 and 20 mm has been forecast. 

This warning comes after August’s torrential rain across 13 provinces left close to 200 people dead and thousands homeless.

The worst-hit province was Parwan, which saw torrents of water destroy hundreds of homes in the provincial capital Charikar. 

 

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Almost 100 dead as Armenia, Azerbaijan clashes continue

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(Last Updated On: September 29, 2020)

Almost 100 people, including civilians, have been killed as battles between Armenia and Azerbaijan continued Tuesday, for the third day, over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. 

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan said that heavy fighting had continued overnight.

The self-proclaimed authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said 87 of their military personnel had been killed and 120 wounded since Sunday.

According to the Armenpress news agency, they put the fatality figure on the Azerbaijani side at nearly 400.

Azerbaijan has not revealed its military losses but has confirmed seven civilian deaths.

Although the fighting started in the Nagorno-Karabakh territory on Sunday, clashes appeared to be spilling over the border on Tuesday. 

Armenia’s defense ministry said a passenger bus had been hit by an Azerbaijani drone in the eastern Armenian city of Vardenis. There were no reports of casualties.

Azerbaijan earlier said two Azerbaijani civilians had been killed in Armenian shelling in Azerbaijan on Monday, following the deaths of five people from the same family a day earlier, BBC reported.

The UN Security Council meanwhile is expected to hold emergency talks on the issue Tuesday.

Both sides have mobilized more soldiers and Turkey on Monday was reportedly sending in Syrian rebel fighters to help Azerbaijan. 

In a statement on Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “I am deeply disturbed by the reported loss of civilian lives and injuries, as well as damage to civilian property and infrastructure.”

She also urged “an immediate end to the fighting”.

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