Turkey’s Erdogan warns Russia not to ‘play with fire’

admin   •   November 28, 2015   •   2453

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015. REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015.
REUTERS/UMIT BEKTAS

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan warned Russia on Friday not to “play with fire”, citing reports Turkish businessmen had been detained in Russia, while Moscow said it would suspend visa-free travel with Turkey.

Relations between the former Cold War antagonists are at their lowest in recent memory after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border on Tuesday. Russia has threatened economic retaliation, a response Erdogan has dismissed as emotional and indecorous.

The incident has proved a distraction for the West, which is looking to build support for the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Syria. The nearly five-year-old Syrian civil war has been complicated by Russian air strikes in defense of President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey, which has long sought Assad’s ouster, has extensive trade ties with Moscow, which could come under strain. Erdogan condemned reports that some Turkish businessmen had been detained for visa irregularities while attending a trade fair in Russia.

“It is playing with fire to go as far as mistreating our citizens who have gone to Russia,” Erdogan told supporters during a speech in Bayburt, in northeast Turkey. “We really attach a lot of importance to our relations with Russia … We don’t want these relations to suffer harm in any way.”

He said he may speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a climate summit in Paris next week. Putin has so far refused to contact Erdogan because Ankara does not want to apologize for the downing of the jet, a Putin aide said.

Erdogan has said Turkey deserves the apology because its air space was violated.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday Moscow would suspend its visa-free regime with Turkey as of Jan. 1, which could affect Turkey’s tourism industry.

Turkey’s seaside resorts are among the most popular holiday destinations for Russians, who make up Turkey’s largest number of tourist arrivals after Germany.

An association of Russian defense factories, which includes the producers of Kalashnikov rifles, Armata tanks and Book missile systems, has recommended its members suspend buying materials from Turkey, according to a letter seen by Reuters. That could damage contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Russia’s agriculture ministry has already increased checks on food and agriculture imports from Turkey, in one of the first public moves to curb trade.

Turkish government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said on Friday Turkey’s council of ministers was also discussing which measures to take, but that he hoped that these would not last long.

“I couldn’t imagine that Russia would completely abandon its relations with Turkey over such an incident,” he told a news conference. “For us it’s impossible for Turkey to abandon its relations with Russia over such an incident.”

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Erdogan said that Turkey did not go looking to shoot down a Russian jet but acted after it strayed into Turkish air space. It was, he said, an “automatic reaction” to standing instructions given to the military. Moscow insists the jet never left Syrian air space.

Lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin called the incident an “intentional murder” of its soldiers, saying Russia had the right to mount a military response.

The incident has worsened the outlook for the Syrian peace process, dashing recent optimism following the Group of 20 meeting in Turkey where U.S. President Barack Obama held an informal meeting with Putin.

“It certainly did not help,” U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said.

However, Putin did ask France to draw up a map of where groups fighting Islamic State militants operate in Syria in order not to bomb them, France’s foreign minister said.

Turkey and Russia have also traded blows over Islamic State, with each side accusing the other of being soft on terrorism. Lavrov, Moscow’s foreign minister, said on Friday Russia had “more and more questions” about Ankara’s commitment to eradicating terrorism.

Erdogan has rejected Russia’s accusations that Turkey is buying oil and gas from Islamic State, calling it “slander” and saying Turkey only made purchases from known sources. He also accused Russian companies and Islamic State of selling oil to the Syrian regime.

Separately, warplanes believed to be Russian carried out several air strikes on a Syrian town near the Turkish border on Friday, a monitoring group said, one of several reported close to the boundary this week.

(Additional reporting by Melih Aslan and Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul, Darya Korsunskaya, Olga Sichkar and Natalya Chumakova in Moscow; John Davison in Beirut; Radu-Sorin Marinas in Bucharest; John Irish in Paris; Writing by David Dolan and Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Larry King)

Russia, Turkey agree ceasefire deal for Syria’s Idlib

UNTV News   •   March 6, 2020

Turkey and Russia agreed a ceasefire deal on Thursday (March 5) in Syria’s Idlib region, their two leaders said after talks in Moscow to contain a conflict which has displaced nearly a million people in three months.

Russia and Turkey back opposing sides in Syria’s nine-year conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad and Turkey backing some rebel groups. Several previous deals to end the fighting in Idlib have collapsed.

The latest offensive in Idlib by Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air strikes, sparked what the United Nations says may be the worst humanitarian crisis yet in a war that has driven millions from their homes and killed hundreds of thousands.

The Russian military has, however, repeatedly played down any talk of a refugee crisis and accused Turkey of violating international law by pouring enough troops into Idlib to make up a mechanised division.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in the transatlantic NATO alliance, has funnelled troops and equipment into the region in recent weeks to resist the Syrian government advance and prevent a wave of refugees over its southern border.

Russia also raced to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before the Putin-Erdogan talks.

Assad himself has vowed to recapture “every inch” of Syrian territory, but his depleted military depends heavily on Moscow’s power and Iranian-backed militias on the ground. Iran was not a party to Thursday’s deal.

Speaking on Russian TV channel Russia 24, Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad said the Russian-Syrian plan was to normalise relations with Turkey, despite their aggressive behaviour.

“Our common goal with Russia was and remains to make Turkey change its policy from the support of the terrorists and to bring our relations back to normal.” Assad said,”For us and for you (Russia), Turkey is a neighbour state, it would be natural to have normal relations with a neighbour state.

The fighting, which raised the prospect of a direct clash between Russia and Turkey, has killed around 60 Turkish troops in the region since last month. Two hours after the joint announcement Turkey’s defence ministry said two soldiers were killed after Syrian government forces opened fire in Idlib.

Putin expressed his regret to Erdogan about the recent killing of 34 Turkish troops in an air strike, saying the Syrian military had not known of their location.

Ahead of the talks, at least 16 civilians were killed when Russian air strikes hit a gathering of displaced people near the town of Maarat Misrin in Idlib, according to civil defence workers helping clear the rubble and search for survivors.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Turkey hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot handle more. Seeking to extract more funding and support from Europe over Idlib, Ankara said last week it would no longer abide by a 2016 deal in which it stopped migrants crossing into the European Union in return for billions of euros in aid. (Reuters)

(Production: Anton Derbenev)

”Everyone wants to go to Europe”- displaced Syrians flee as fighting escalates

UNTV News   •   March 5, 2020

Thousands of displaced Syrians stranded at the border with Turkey say they have nowhere to go but Turkey and then hopefully on to Europe.

Men, women and children have fled escalating violence in Idlib to displaced persons camps in border-towns like Atmeh, where the Turkish border is blocked off by an imposing grey concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

“The only solution before us is to enter Turkey, and from Turkey to Europe – any country that we can go to,” said 33-year-old displaced Syrian, Amer al-Ahmed on Wednesday (March 4). “We have nowhere else to go.”

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, said on Tuesday (March 3) that the number of displaced people has surged to 980,000, more than half of them children, who are now coping with inadequate shelter and a lack of sanitation facilities in areas near the Turkish border.

“Everyone wants to go to Europe because the situation is tragic here,” said Ahmed al-Khaled, 36, adding that he hopes the borders are opened.

Escalating military action by Russia and Turkey in Idlib risks a direct confrontation between the two major foreign powers in Syria’s war, days ahead of a summit of their leaders to hammer out a deal to halt the fighting.

Both countries say they hope to avoid a head-on clash, but after Turkey ramped up attacks on Russian-backed Syrian forces and Russian military police helped secure a town seized from Turkey-backed rebels, all sides acknowledge the risk.

Turkey, which has sent thousands of troops and military hardware into Idlib to confront Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, hosts 3.6 million Syrians and has closed its border saying it cannot take in more migrants. (REUTERS CONNECT)

(Production: Mahmoud Hassano, Hamuda Hassan, Nadeen Ebrahim)

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9 dead in Turkey after earthquake hits Iran border area

UNTV News   •   February 24, 2020

BASKALE, TURKEY (FEBRUARY 23, 2020)DAMAGED HOMES

Nine people died and hundreds of buildings collapsed in southeastern Turkey on Sunday (February 23) after a magnitude-5.7 earthquake struck near the border with Iran, injuring dozens in villages and towns in both countries, government officials said.

Three of those killed were children and 37 Turks were injured, including nine critically, Turkey’s health ministry said.

The shallow tremor caused more than 1,000 buildings to collapse in Turkey, prompting a brief rescue effort to find those trapped under rubble.

The quake damaged buildings some 90 km (56 miles) to the west in the Turkish city of Van, and to the east in dozens of villages in Iran, where state TV said 75 people were injured including six in hospital, though there were no fatalities.

Crisscrossed by major fault lines, Iran and Turkey are among the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.—Yesim Dikmen via Reuters Connect

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