ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday accused pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas of “treason” for criticizing the downing of a Russian jet by Turkish F-16s near the Syrian border last month, Today’s Zaman daily reports.

Demirtas visited Moscow on Wednesday and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks. Speaking at the start of the meeting, he said the downing of the Russian warplane was “not right.”

“They take sides with whoever Turkey is facing a crisis with. Demirtas saying in Moscow that Turkey’s downing of the Russian jet was wrong is a total disgrace and treason,” Davutoglu told a meeting of businessmen in Ankara.

“Our main duty is to raise our voice against Russian cruelty. Supporting Russia while it kills civilians in Syria is treason not only against this country but also against humanity.”

Responding to Davutoglu, the HDP said the prime minister’s remarks are “unacceptable.” “It is, to say the least, a contradiction that the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AK Party government sees HDP contacts with the Russian government as treason while it continues to maintain such contacts,” said Nazmi Gür, a deputy chairman of the party who is in charge of foreign relations. Gür also said the HDP has characterized the downing of the Russian jet as a “mistake” since the incident and insisted that the HDP would never engage in any dialogue that would put the interests of the people of Turkey at risk.

Gür also lamented that the government was trying to undermine HDP efforts to ease tension with Russia and ensure that the people of Russia and Turkey were not hurt by the diplomatic crisis, and criticized it for blocking alternative foreign policy channels.

Demirtas also defended his remarks in Moscow. “I will apologize if they [the government] can state a single benefit for Turkey in the downing of the Russian jet,” he said later in the day as he spoke at a news conference in Istanbul upon his return from Russia.

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