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Turkish Prez Erdogan calls PM Imran, praises his gesture to release IAF pilot

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Press Trust of India Islamabad
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday called Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and appreciated his announcement to release captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as a gesture of peace.
In a surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Khan said Thursday that Indian Air Force pilot Varthaman will be released on Friday as a gesture of peace and will be the "first step" to open negotiations with India.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that Erdogan congratulated the Prime Minister on his speech in the Parliament and "his statesman-like offers to India for de-escalating the situation and working towards peace".
"President Erdogan appreciated the announcement by the Prime Minister to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot. He pointed out that this gesture was a sign of strength," the statement said.
Prime Minister Khan briefed Erdogan on the situation as it evolved over the past few days and the efforts he made to de-escalate the crisis, it said.
He also apprised the Turkish leader about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
Khan underscored that "Pakistan is the one country that will always stand by Turkey".
Pakistan detained Wing Commander Varthaman Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two sides along the Line of Control when his MiG 21 fighter jet was downed.
Pakistan's Foreign Office (FO) said that the Indian Air Force pilot was safe and sound.
India Wednesday summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan and demanded immediate and safe return of the IAF pilot who was detained by Pakistan following an aerial engagement by air forces of the two countries.
Prime Minister Khan also received a telephone call from UAE Crown Prince H H Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan.
The Crown Prince congratulated the Prime Minister on his speech in the Parliament.
"He appreciated Prime Minister Khan's willingness to resolve all issues in a peaceful manner," according to statement.
Tensions have escalated between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
India carried out air strikes against the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot. In the operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for suicide attacks were eliminated.
Pakistan on Wednesday claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot.

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First Published: Feb 28 2019 | 10:41 PM IST

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