NATO member Turkey has “temporarily” suspended air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Syria after the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border sparked a major row with Moscow, local media reported on Friday.
Turkish F-16 jets on Tuesday shot down a Russian warplane which Ankara said had breached its air space. Russia on Thursday vowed to carry out broad retaliatory measures against Turkey’s economy.
Turkey, a member of a U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, has halted air raids against the group in Syria in order to avoid any further crises, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
“Both sides agreed to act cautiously until they re-establish dialogue channels to reduce tensions,” the paper said, citing security sources.
Meanwhile, Russia threatened economic retaliation against Turkey, but Ankara dismissed the threats as “emotional” and “unfitting.”
In an escalating war of words, President Tayyip Erdogan responded to Russian accusations that Turkey has been buying oil and gas from ISIS by accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, which include Moscow, of being the real source of the group’s financial and military power.
Appeals for calm
The shooting down of the jet by the Turkish air force on Tuesday was one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, and further complicated international efforts to battle ISIS militants.
World leaders have urged both sides to avoid escalation. In an apparent attempt to cool the dispute – and appeal to Western countries – Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a letter to Britain’s Times newspaper that Ankara would work with its allies and Russia to “calm tensions.”
Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered his government to draw up measures that would include freezing some joint investment projects and restricting food imports from Turkey.
Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said Moscow could put limits on flights to and from Turkey, halt preparations for a joint free trade zone, and restrict high-profile projects including the TurkStream gas pipeline and a $20 billion nuclear power plant Russia is building in Turkey.
Russia’s defense ministry meanwhile said it had suspended all cooperation with the Turkish military, including a hotline set up to share information on Russian air strikes in Syria, the TASS news agency reported.
Tourism and agriculture halt
The head of Russia’s tourism agency, Rostourism, said cooperation with Turkey would “obviously” be halted. At least two large Russian tour operators had already said they would stop selling packages to Turkey after Russian officials advised holidaymakers against traveling to its resorts.
Russians are second only to Germans in terms of the numbers visiting Turkey, bringing in an estimated $4 billion a year in tourism revenues, which Turkey needs to help fund its gaping current account deficit.
Medvedev meanwhile said Russia may impose restrictions on food imports within days, having already increased checks of Turkish agriculture products, its first public move to curb trade.
Moscow banned most Western food imports in 2014 when Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis, leading to supply disruptions as retailers had to find new suppliers and galloping inflation.