Turkish President Erdogan Says He's 'Deeply Saddened' About Downed Russian Fighter Jet

On Tuesday, a Russian fighter jet was shot down flying in the skies around the Syrian border, setting off a firestorm of international tensions, accusations, and suspicions. Russia has maintained that the flight was over Syria, not Turkey, while the Turkish government has insisted the jet violated their airspace. The situation is contentious enough that Russian president Vladimir Putin has already announced a slew of economic sanctions against Turkey, and the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has responded: Erdogan says he's "deeply saddened" about the Russian jet incident, which resulted in the death of one pilot.

Speaking at an event in the city of Balikesir on Saturday, as CNN detailed, Erdogan — who has a troubling human rights record, and has been the target of repeated political protests within Turkey for years — expressed his sadness about the downed jet. With a glaring caveat, however: he didn't actually apologize, and while he said he didn't want to see this happen again, he cited respect for Turkish sovereignty as a necessary precondition.

We wouldn't have wished this to happen. But, unfortunately, it did. ... Turkey has never been in favor of triggering tensions and clashes, and we never will be. ... As long as our sovereign rights are not violated, our struggle will continue through diplomatic channels, adhering to international laws and agreements. ... We hope that the tensions with Russia will not grow and result in more saddening incidents.
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Members of the international community have been watching anxiously to see where these new, heightened tensions between Turkey and Russian end up leading, if anywhere — Russia is currently coordinating with France in engineering a massive military response against ISIS in neighboring Syria. Needless to say, the price of hostilities between the Russian and Turkish governments could be steep.

Even with the veiled threat in Erdogan's latest words on the subject, it's a lot more conciliatory than he was when he addressed it on Thursday. Speaking to CNN from the Turkish capital of Ankara, he placed the blame squarely on the Russians, and suggested that the Turkish armed forces had simply "fulfilled their duties."

I think if there is a party that needs to apologize, it is not us. Those who violated our airspace are the ones who need to apologize. Our pilots and our armed forces, they simply fulfilled their duties, which consisted of responding to ... violations of the rules of engagement. I think this is the essence.