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It’s Never Too Late for Erdogan to Say ‘Sorry’

Over the course of a day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "sorry" to Russia and agreed to reinstate ties with Israel.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Taayip Erdogan looks on during a joint press conference with Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi after a meeting at Chigi Palace in Rome. (Photo by Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images)
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Taayip Erdogan looks on during a joint press conference with Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi after a meeting at Chigi Palace in Rome. (Photo by Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images)

If there’s anything Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hates more than finding out someone has insulted him, it’s when he has to apologize for his own behavior toward anyone else.

So it appears he decided to just rip the Band-Aid off this week and mend broken relations with Russia and Israel all at once.

Relations between Ankara and Moscow went from frosty to ice cold in November after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet; Ankara claimed the plane had violated Turkish airspace, and Moscow claimed it had not. One Russian pilot was killed in the crash, and a Russian marine was killed during a mission to rescue him and the other pilot who survived. It was the first time a NATO country had shot down a Russian jet in decades and the first time Russians were targeted by NATO since Moscow joined the Syrian civil war to bolster embattled President Bashar al-Assad in late September. At the time, Putin called the Turkish move a “treacherous stab in the back.”

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Erdogan sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing his “sympathy and deep condolences” to the family of the pilot who was killed when the Turkish military shot down his jet.

“The letter states, in particular, that Russia is a friend to Turkey and a strategic partner, with which the Turkish authorities would not wish to spoil relations,” Peskov said.

State-run Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency said Monday that “the president stated that he would like to inform the family of the deceased Russian pilot that I share their pain and to offer my condolences to them.”

“May they excuse us,” he reportedly wrote.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Turkish officials announced the two countries reached a deal this weekend that will re-establish diplomatic ties, which deteriorated in 2010 after Israeli troops raided a Turkish ship headed to Gaza, killing one Turkish-American and eight Turkish activists. Part of that deal includes a $20 million compensation package for families of the Turkish citizens killed in the raid.

Erdogan’s active steps to improve relations with the Kremlin and Israel come amid growing concern about the Islamic State’s threat to Middle Eastern security and shortly after Turkey was insulted by Germany’s recent motion to recognize that the Ottoman Empire carried out genocide against Armenians in 1915 — which Erdogan categorically denies.

And on Monday, a group of German lawyers and human rights activists announced they had filed a civil suit against Erdogan for allegedly carrying out “war crimes” against Kurds in Turkey.

Photo credit: Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images

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