A Russian airstrike that was intended for Islamic State group militants in Northern Syria but instead “accidentally” killed three Turkish soldiers happened because Turkey's army provided them with the wrong coordinates about their troops’ location, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. However, the Turkish military responded saying it had warned Russia military that their troops were going to be in that area before Thursday’s attack, Sputnik International reported Friday.
A representative of the Turkish army said the three casualties in the northern town of Al Bab were the result of a “lack of agreement of coordinates during strikes by the Russian air force.” However, the representative maintained that the air strike that blew up a building where Turkish troops were deployed was an “accident," according to France 24 NewsThursday.
The Russian defense ministry said chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov and his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, had spoken to one another on the phone to “agree on closer coordination of joint actions.”
Both Russia and Turkey have been conducting air strikes in Al Bab, which has been held by the Islamic State group since December. But the Turkish military spearheaded efforts to take the city on the ground this week when it started besieging the town Monday and successfully entered its southern outskirts Thursday. Five Turkish soldiers were killed Thursday in firefights with Islamic State militants, while five others died in battles Wednesday, according to BBC News Thursday.
The two countries were seemingly on opposing sides of the Syrian Civil War, with the Kremlin hoping that Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power and Ankara viewing his removal as the key to peace in the conflict that has killed an estimated 400,000 people since starting in March 2011. But with Russia and Turkey agreeing to work together to exterminate the presence of the Islamic State in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly reached out to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Thursday's incident to express his condolences and offer his assurance that the Kremlin would do everything in its power to prevent such mistakes from happening again.
Both countries have launched an investigation into the attack.
Each sides was reportedly eager to move on from Thursday’s incident in a similar fashion to when the two countries offered to help one another in December after an off-duty Turkish policemen shot and killed Russia’s ambassador to Ankara in an art gallery.
After Andrey Karlov's assassination, which Erdogan called an attempt to "derail" efforts by Turkey and Russia to work together to bring peace to Syria, the Turkish government offered Russian detectives whatever resources they needed during their investigation. As an additional sign of respect, Karlov’s body was given a traditional Turkish honor ceremony on the tarmac before being sent back to Russia on an airplane.
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