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Belgrade talks fail to end Turkey, Russia political rift

Martin Bureau AFP | Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a press conference, on November 30, 2015, during of the COP21 United Nations conference on climate change

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had heard "nothing new" from his Turkish counterpart on Thursday after the first high-level bilateral contact between the two countries since the Turkish airforce shot down a Russian jet nine days ago.

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Moscow and Ankara are deeply at odds over what happened when Turkey downed the Russian SU-24 fighter bomber near the Syrian border as it took part in the Kremlin's air campaign against militants in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin branded the incident a war crime on Thursday and said Turkey would face further sanctions. Moscow has already banned some Turkish food imports as part of a wider package of retaliatory sanctions.

"We met with the head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry on his insistent request. We heard nothing new," Lavrov told a televised news conference.

He said Russia had reiterated its own position during the meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

Turkey says the Russian jet violated its airspace and that it was repeatedly warned, something Russia has denied.

While Cavusoglu praised the mood of the talks he gave no indication of a breakthrough on ending the crisis.

“It’s important to keep the channels of dialogue open," he said. "On both sides there is a desire not to escalate the tensions. I am sure that common sense will win over emotion."

But he added: "It would not be realistic to say that the problems have been overcome in a first meeting."

At the meeting Cavusoglu expressed Ankara’s condolences to Russia for the death of a Russian pilot killed in the downing of the jet, yet the foreign minister stopped short of issuing a full apology, which Russia has demanded.

"We expressed our sadness and expressed our condolences for the Russian pilot who lost his life," Turkish media quoted Cavusoglu as saying after meeting Lavrov.

Cavusoglu told the OSCE conference: "The incident on the 24th of November ... should not be confused with our fighting against our common enemy of Daesh, terrorism and should not be abused for political objectives."

Daesh is an Arabic term for the Islamic State jihadist group, which has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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