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Turkey shuts airspace to Russian jets, Strongest response to date

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Turkey shuts airspace to Russian jets, Strongest response to date
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Turkey has closed its airspace to Russian planes flying to Syria as a response to the war in Ukraine. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday both military and civilian planes flying to Syria cannot pass. Russian forces are fighting anti-government forces in Syria.

Turkey has close ties with Moscow even though the former is a member of NATO. The Turkish minister said that his government had asked Russia to stop the war in Ukraine in March. "They had until April."

Cavusoglu added that the ban on airspace will stay in place for three months. He disclosed that Turkey's stand was conveyed to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who in turn spoke to President Putin.

Russia has not yet responded to Turkey's announcement regarding the airspace ban. Russia is a crucial supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey has been backing the rebels in the civil war.

Turkey considers Ukraine to be an important trade partner and diplomatic ally. The government has been hosting meetings between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul in an attempt to end the conflict.

About trying to arrange a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Cavusoglu said the prospects of it are dim at this point. He added a deal might not happen for a long time, but it can happen suddenly.

The relationship between Turkey and Russia was in trouble in 2015 when Ankara shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border. But the diplomatic ties have been improving since then until Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine.

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