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Turkey doesn't want escalation after Russian jet downed

The downing of the jet represents a serious clash between a Nato member and Russia.

FILE: Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: AFP.

INSTANBUL - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Turkey did not want any escalation after it shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border, saying it had simply acted to defend its own security and the "rights of our brothers" in Syria.

But while neither side has shown any interest in a military escalation, Russia has made clear it will exact economic revenge through trade and tourism. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that important joint projects could be cancelled and Turkish firms could lose Russian market share.

The downing of the jet on Tuesday was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a Nato member and Russia for half a century, and further complicated international efforts to battle Islamic State militants in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the plane was attacked when it was 1km inside Syria and warned of "serious consequences" for what he described as a stab in the back administered by "the accomplices of terrorists".

United States (US) President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande, seeking to forge a broader alliance against Islamic State after attacks in Paris this month, pressed Russia to focus on the jihadist group and urged Moscow and Ankara not to let the situation escalate.

Speaking at a business event in Istanbul, Erdogan said the Russian jet had been fired at while in Turkish airspace but had crashed inside Syria, although he said parts of it landed in Turkey and injured two Turkish citizens.

"We have no intention of escalating this incident. We are only defending our own security and the rights of our brothers," Erdogan said, adding Turkey's policy in Syria would not change.

"We will continue our humanitarian efforts on both sides of the (Syrian) border. We are determined to take all necessary measures to prevent a new wave of immigration."

Turkey has been angered by Russian air strikes in Syria targeting Turkmens near its border, who are Syrians of Turkish descent. It had repeatedly warned Russia over airspace violations since October and last week summoned the Russian ambassador to protest against the bombing of Turkmen villages.

Putin has said Russian planes had in no way threatened Turkey, but had merely been carrying out their duty to fight Islamic State militants inside Syria.

Erdogan dismissed that version of events.

"It has been said that they were there to fight Daesh," he said of Russian air strikes, and using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

'First of all, the Daesh terrorist organisation does not have a presence in this region of Latakia and the north where Turkmens are based. Let's not fool ourselves."

He said Turkey had made a "huge effort" to prevent an incident like the downing of the Russian aircraft, but that the limits of its patience had been tested.

Putin on Wednesday accused Turkey's political leaders of encouraging the "Islamisation" of Turkish society, something he described as a deeper problem than the downing of the jet.

WATCH:Turkey downs Russian warplane

Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has announced the Kremlin has no intention to wage a war against Turkey after its air force shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish border with Syria.

Lavrov says Russia views the downing as a planned act and Moscow will "seriously reconsider" its relations with Ankara.

When asked this afternoon if future talks were being prepared, Lavrov said there are no plans to send any officials to turkey and that Moscow does not plan to host any Turkish visits.

ECONOMIC REVENGE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the downing of the jet had complicated efforts to find a political solution in Syria and said everything needed to be done to avoid an escalation.

"Of course every country has a right to defend its territory but on the other hand we know how tense the situation is in Syria and in the surrounding area," she told parliament, adding she had asked Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to "do everything to de-escalate the situation".

Increased tensions could have significant economic and political repercussions which are in neither Moscow nor Ankara's interests, analysts warned. But both Putin and Erdogan are strong-willed leaders ill-disposed to being challenged.

RUSSIAN, SYRIAN SPECIAL FORCES RESCUE RUSSIAN PILOT

Russian and Syrian Special Forces rescued one of the pilots of a Russian warplane, Syrian state media reported on Wednesday.

The state news agency Sana said the pilot, whose Su-24 jet came down in Syrian territory on Tuesday, had been retrieved from an area where rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad were present.

Syrian special forces "last night carried out a joint operation with Russian special forces, penetrating four to five kilometres into areas where terrorists are located, and were able to save one of the pilots of the Russian plane", Sana reported, adding that he had been returned to a military base.

Syria's government uses the term terrorists to describe all insurgents fighting against it.

The incident was one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a Nato member country and Russia for half a century. Turkey said the jet had violated its air space while Moscow said the plane had not left Syrian air space.

Both of the two pilots bailed out but one was shot dead from the ground, Russia's army said.

A deputy commander of rebel Turkmen forces in Syria said on Tuesday that his men had shot both pilots dead as they parachuted down. However, the Russian Defence Ministry also said one of them was safe and had returned to Russia's air base in western Syria.

Russia intervened directly in the Syrian civil war on 30 September with its own air campaign in support of Assad, whose forces are fighting insurgents backed by regional powers including Turkey.

The warplane crashed in a mountainous area in the northern countryside of Latakia province, where there had been aerial bombardment earlier and where pro-government forces have been battling insurgents on the ground, monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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