Turkey and Russia disagree over cause of botched airstrike

Russian President Vladmir Putin, left, meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

Story highlights

  • Turkey and Russia dispute cause of deadly airstrike
  • Parties agree greater military coordination is necessary

(CNN)Turkey and Russia on Friday disagreed over the events that led to a deadly incident of friendly fire, but agreed to strengthen their military coordination.

Russian fighter jets were performing a combat mission to destroy ISIS militants' positions in northern Syria on Thursday when they mistakenly fired on Turkish troops, according to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Three Turkish soldiers were killed and 11 others wounded in the airstrike near the city of al-Bab.
    The Turkish military had provided Russian forces with the coordinates of its troops' positions one day before the deadly airstrike, according to a statement on Friday by the Turkish Armed Forces.
    Following an earlier incident in which a rocket was launched from a Russian-controlled area towards a Turkish position, Turkey resent the coordinates to the Russian command center at the Hmeymim military base near Latakia, said the statement.
    Hours earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the strike was based on coordinates provided by the Turkish side.
    Despite the disagreement, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said both sides agree the airstrike was "accidental," according to Russian state-run news agency Tass.
    "According to preliminary data that we have received, this happened due to improper coordination of operations in that region. That is why, it is extremely important that this coordination between the Turkish and the Russian militaries should be enhanced in the future," said Kurtulmus.
    Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, expressed his condolences to Turkish Gen. Hulusi Akar for the men "killed as a result of unintended attack by a Russian plane," according to the Russian Ministry of Defense statement.
    "The heads of the General Staff agreed to a closer coordination of the joint actions and to exchange information about the situation on the ground," the statement said.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, and "conveyed his condolences over a tragic accident causing the death of several Turkish military servicemen," according to Tass.

    Turkey-Syria Relations

    Turkey and Russia have clashed over other deadly incidents involving the military.
    In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet, killing one pilot and injuring another. The two nations disagreed on whether the plane had violated Turkish airspace.
    Tensions were further strained in December when the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an art gallery in Ankara. Ambassador Andrey Karlov's shooting was captured in photos and video that quickly went viral.
    Turkey and Russia back opposing sides in Syria's ongoing civil war.
    Erdogan said last year that Turkish forces entered Syria to help end President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Meanwhile, Russia is Assad's most powerful ally and has supported his regime with airstrikes since September 2015.
    However, the two parties do coordinate military efforts to destroy common enemy ISIS.
    They have also worked to broker ceasefires in the Syrian conflict.