Turkish president says wishes plane downing had not happened

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Tensions Escalate Over Russian Jet Downed by Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday voiced regret over Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane, saying his country was "truly saddened" by the incident and wished it hadn't occurred.

It was the first expression of regret by the strongman leader since Tuesday's incident in which Turkish F-16 jets shot down the Russian jet on grounds that it had violated Turkey's airspace despite repeated warnings to change course. It was the first time in half a century that a NATO member shot down a Russian plane and drew a harsh response from Moscow.

See more from the deadly incident:

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Russian warplane crashes in Syria near Turkey's border
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Turkish president says wishes plane downing had not happened
An image grab made from a video shows a burning Russian fighter jet coming down after being shot down near the Turkish-Syrian border, in Hatay on November 24, 2015. NATO member Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border today, threatening a major spike in tensions between two key protagonists in the four-year Syria civil war. AFP PHOTO / IHLAS NEWS AGENCY / AFP / IHLAS NEWS AGENCY / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Unidentified aircraft goes down in Kizildag region of Turkey's Hatay province, close to the Syrian border, on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft, which went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak, belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FILE In this Oct. 22, 2015 file photo, a Russian Su-24 takes off on a combat mission at Hemeimeem airbase in Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies. (AP Photo/Vladimir Isachenkov, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2015, file photo, a Russian Su-24 bomber rolls to take off on a combat mission at Hemeimeem airbase in Syria. Turkey shot down a Russian warplane Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings. Russia denied that the plane crossed the Syrian border into Turkish skies. (AP Photo/Vladimir Isachenkov, File)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Unidentified aircraft goes down in Kizildag region of Turkey's Hatay province, close to the Syrian border, on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft, which went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak, belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: A warplane goes down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Unidentified aircraft goes down in Kizildag region of Turkey's Hatay province, close to the Syrian border, on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft, which went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak, belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Unidentified aircraft goes down in Kizildag region of Turkey's Hatay province, close to the Syrian border, on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft, which went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak, belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: A warplane goes down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: A person parachutes out of a warplane which went down in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Smoke rises as the Syrian regime forces attack the region where Russian warplane downed within the framework of engagement rules by Turkey in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. (Photo by Ramazan Ãzdemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Smoke rises after a warplane crashed in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HATAY, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 24: Smoke rises after a warplane crashed in Syria's northwestern Turkmen town of Bayirbucak near Turkeys border on November 24, 2015. It remains unclear to which country the aircraft belongs to. (Photo by Fatih Akta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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"We are truly saddened by this incident," Erdogan said. "We wish it hadn't happened as such, but unfortunately such a thing has happened. I hope that something like this doesn't occur again."

Addressing supporters in the western city of Balikesir, Erdogan said neither country should allow the incident to escalate and take a destructive form that would lead to "saddening consequences."

SEE MORE: Russia looks to cut economic ties with Turkey

He renewed a call for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a climate conference in Paris next week, saying it would be an opportunity to overcome tensions.

Erdogan's friendly overture however, came after he again vigorously defended Turkey's action and criticized Russia for its operations in Syria.

"If we allow our sovereign rights to be violated ... then the territory would no longer be our territory," Erdogan said.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said he hoped a meeting between Erdogan and Putin would take place in Paris.

"In such situations it is important to keep the channels of communication open," he said.

Putin has denounced the Turkish action as a "treacherous stab in the back," and has insisted that the plane was downed over Syrian territory in violation of international law. He has also refused to take telephone calls from Erdogan. Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday that the Kremlin had received Erdogan's request for a meeting, but wouldn't say whether such a meeting is possible.

Asked why Putin hasn't picked up the phone to respond to Erdogan's two phone calls, he said that "we have seen that the Turkish side hasn't been ready to offer an elementary apology over the plane incident."

Erdogan isn't the only leader Putin has an awkward relationship with:

17 PHOTOS
Obama and Putin's awkward meetings through the years
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Turkish president says wishes plane downing had not happened
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama, right, talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, prior to a session of the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. The tide of global rage against the Islamic State group lends greater urgency to ending the jihadisâ ability to operate at will from a base in war-torn Syria. That momentum could also force a reevaluation of what to do about President Bashar Assadâs future and puts a renewed focus on the position of his key patrons, Russia and Iran. (Kayhan Ozer/Anadolu Agency via AP, Pool, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
United States President Barack Obama, right, and Russia's President President Vladimir Putin pose for members of the media before a bilateral meeting Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a bilateral meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (Mikhail Klimentyev, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, passes by US President Barack Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 in Beijing. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Presidential Press Service)
Leaders pose for a group photo at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit at the International Convention Center in Yanqi Lake, Beijing, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014. Among those pictured are, left to right: Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neil; Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; U.S. President Barack Obama; Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott; Chinese President Xi Jinping; Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak; Russian President Vladimir Putin; New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) attend a family photo ceremony during the APEC Leaders meeting November 10, 2014 in Beijing, China. The APEC Summit hosted 1500 economic leaders in Beijing to deliberate key issues facing the Asia-Pacific economy. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed during the two-day summit. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama during arrivals for the G-20 summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Russias President Vladimir Putin (L) walks past US President Barack Obama as he arrives to pose for the family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. World leaders at the G20 summit on Friday failed to bridge their bitter divisions over US plans for military action against the Syrian regime, with Washington signalling that it has given up on securing Russia's support at the UN on the crisis. AFP PHOTO / JEWEL SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Monday, June 17, 2013 file photo President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday Sept. 3, 2013 Putin sought to downplay the current chill in the U.S.-Russian relations and said that the two countries need to cooperate on a range of issues in the interests of global stability. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The White House is considering canceling a fall summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a move that would further aggravate the already tense relationship between the two leaders. The White House is dangling that option over the Russians as Moscow considers a temporary asylum petition from Edward Snowden, the American accused of leaking information about classified U.S. intelligence programs.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
ENNISKILLEN, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 18: Leaders (L-R) Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama stand for the 'family' group photograph at the G8 venue of Lough Erne on June 18, 2013 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. The two day G8 summit, hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, is being held in Northern Ireland for the first time. Leaders from the G8 nations have gathered to discuss numerous topics with the situation in Syria expected to dominate the talks. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
G8 leaders from center rear clockwise, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a working session during the G-8 summit at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Yves Herman, Pool)
FILE - In this June 18, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama and Russiaâs President Vladimir Putin, left, go to shake hands during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico. In a few days' worth of opportunistic diplomacy, Vladimir Putin has revived memories of an era many thought long gone, where the United States and Soviet Union jostled for influence in a Middle East torn between two powers. Whatever happens with its proposal to relieve Syria of chemical weapons, Russia reemerges as a player in the region _ and one who does not easily abandon allies. That's meaningful in a region where America's dumping of Hosni Mubarak has emerged as a seminal moment _ and it may resonate with Iran, whose leaders are carefully watching the global chessboard as the clock ticks toward another showdown, over their nuclear program.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, reacts while listening to Russia's President Vladimir Putin before the opening of the first plenary session of the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, Monday, June 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
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After the incident, Russia deployed long-range S-400 air defense missile systems to a Russian air base in Syria just 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the border with Turkey to help protect Russian warplanes, and the Russian military warned it would shoot down any aerial target that would pose a potential threat to its planes.

Russia has since also restricted tourist travel to Turkey, left Turkish trucks stranded at the border, confiscated large quantities of Turkish food imports and started preparing a raft of broader economic sanctions.

On Saturday Turkey issued a travel warning urging its nationals to delay non-urgent and unnecessary travel to Russia, saying Turkish travelers were facing "problems" in the country. It said Turks should delay travel plans until "the situation becomes clear."

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