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

admin   •   November 28, 2015   •   2327

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)

Turkey created a ‘very terrible’ situation in Syria – Pentagon chief

Robie de Guzman   •   October 24, 2019

US Secretary for Defense Mark Esper

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday (October 24) criticised Turkey for its military incursion into Syria, saying it had put the U.S. and its allies in a “very terrible situation”.

Last week, Esper said he would press NATO allies “to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response” to Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, even as critics have pointed out that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision enabled the Turkish offensive. Earlier this month, Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing its troops from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkish troops to launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters in the area.

“There was not a possibility that we were going to start a war with a NATO ally,” Esper said.

Speaking at an event organised in Brussels by the German Marshall Fund think tank, the Defense Secretary urged Ankara to demonstrate that it was still a “responsible” NATO ally.

The American pullout from northeastern Syria has raised concern that it could allow a resurgence of Islamic State militants.

Esper said he already talked to his British and French counterparts and that the U.S. was still committed to continue the fight against Islamic State militants. He was expected to discuss the topic further at a meeting of NATO defence ministers later in the day. (Reuters)

(Production: Christian Levaux, Jorrit Donner-Wittkopf)

Turkey Pres. Erdogan vows to resume Syria assault if U.S. promises not met

Robie de Guzman   •   October 22, 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, 22 October 2019. EPA-EFE/SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL

Kurdish forces are continuing to withdraw in northeast Syria but Turkey will resume its military assault there once a U.S.-brokered ceasefire expires if promises given by Washington are not kept, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (October 22).

Speaking ahead of an official visit to Russia, Erdogan also said he would discuss with Russian President Vladimir Putin how a Syrian constitutional committee that is due to meet in late October can make concrete progress.

“We will also find the opportunity to the steps to be taken to end the presence of the PKK/PYD/YPG in areas where the regime elements are. Separately, we will discuss what we can do for the constitutional committee to work in a healthy way and to put forth concrete work,” he added

A five-day pause in Turkey’s cross-border military offensive to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG fighters from the border area expires at 10 pm (1900 GMT) on Tuesday.

“The withdrawal is continuing at the moment. According to the information I have received from my defense minister, around 700-800 (YPG fighters) have already withdrawn and the rest is around 1200-1300. They are continuing to withdraw,” Erdogan said.

Turkey says Kurdish YPG militia forces must leave a “safe zone” it wants to establish along its border with northeast Syria. Ankara views the YPG as terrorists with links to Kurdish insurgents operating in southeast Turkey. (Reuters)

(Production: Mert Ozkan)

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo in Ankara for talks on Turkey’s Syria offensive

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a meeting with President of Italy Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS / POOL

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ankara on Thursday (October 17) as part of Washington’s efforts to convince Turkey to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.

Turkey’s week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks to try to persuade Turkey to halt the offensive. (Reuters)

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