Turkish-Russian clash of words aggravates efforts to recover ties after downing of Russian jet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the strong reaction from Russia “emotional” and “unfitting.” After Tuesday’s incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov canceled his scheduled visit to Turkey on Wednesday and Russia announced that it will cancel a number of projects with Turkey, as well as it taking measures that range from it restricting its commercial flights to calling to Russians not to visit Turkey.

President Erdogan also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to prove his claim that Turkey had been buying oil and gas from the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Following Turkey’s downing of the Russian jet on Tuesday, Putin accused Turkey of supporting ISIL and called the incident a “stab in the back.” He also warned that the incident would have serious consequences for Turkish-Russian relations.

“We have long identified that there are a lot of oil and petrol products going to Turkey from the captured territories,” said Putin, adding that ISIL received its financing from trade conducted through the area.

In reply to these accusations, Erdogan said that those supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including Moscow, are the real source of ISIL’s financial and military power. Tuesday’s jet downing is the first incident of a NATO country bringing down a Russian jet since 1950s. Last month Russia violated Turkish airspace a couple times of times at the Syrian border. Russia says it’s been conducting preemptive strikes against the terrorists in northern Latakia, where in the mountainous area of Bayır-Bucak the Turkmens, the ethnic kin of Turkey, live. Although the airspace violations last month were admitted, this time Russia denies that there were any.

“Faced with the same violation today, Turkey would give the same response,” Erdogan said. He added, “It is the country that carried out the violation that should question itself and take measures to prevent it from happening again, not the country that was subjected to the violation.”

Erdogan continued: “We are strategic partners. Halting joint projects and cutting ties; Is this a fitting approach for politicians?”

“First the politicians and our militaries should sit down and talk about where the errors were made. Then we should focus on overcoming those errors from both sides. But instead, if we make emotional statements like this, it will not be right,” he said. Erdogan pointed out that the Russian jet was shot down on Tuesday as an “automatic reaction” to the violation of Turkish air space, in line with the standing instructions given to the military.

Those instructions were a separate issue to the disagreements with Russia over the Syria policy, he said, adding that Ankara would continue to support moderate rebels in Syria and Turkmen fighters battling Assad.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday alleged that Turkish officials were benefiting from ISIL oil sales, while Lavrov said it was no secret that “terrorists” use Turkish territory.


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