Russia Concerned by Erdogan’s Syria Comment

Turkish President Erdogan (left) and the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma of Russia, Alexei Pushkov (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)
Turkish President Erdogan (left) and the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma of Russia, Alexei Pushkov (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

Turkish President Erdogan (left) and the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma of Russia, Alexei Pushkov (Source: Hurriyet Daily News)

MOSCOW (Hurriyet Daily News)—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent assertion that the Turkish military operation in Syria was aimed at “ending the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad” has raised eyebrows in Russia, with the Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry awaiting an explanation.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Erdoğan’s remarks had come as a surprise to Moscow and that it expected an explanation from Ankara, Reuters reported.

“The announcement really came as news to us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Reuters.

“It is a very serious statement and one which differs from previous ones and with our understanding of the situation. We hope that our Turkish partners will provide us with some kind of explanation about this,” he said.

Erdoğan’s remarks will also be discussed during an upcoming visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Ankara, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on November 30, TASS News Agency reported.

“That will be a good topic so as to clarify the intentions,” Bogdanov said according to TASS.

Lavrov was traveling to Turkey on Wednesday and will hold a bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on December 1.

Bogdanov also said it was against all international agreements that Turkey is party to “if Erdoğan plans to wage war” on al-Assad.

On November 29, Erdoğan said the Turkish military had launched its operations that started in late August in Syria to end the rule of al-Assad, despite having previously said he would “clear the Turkish border of terrorist organizations.”

“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice. We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the president said.

Meanwhile, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma of Russia, Alexei Pushkov, said the aim of Ankara’s offensive in Syria was not feasible.

“Erdogan said Turkish troops entered Syria to overthrow al-Assad. But this goal does not seem feasible. [It’s] very similar to the political rhetoric,” Pushkov tweeted on Tuesday.

In addition, Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, also said Erdoğan’s “emotional” remarks were unlikely to affect the current situation in Syria as well as relations between Moscow and Ankara, Ria Novosti reported.

“I think it was more emotional, inward application of the country, which is confirmed by the place where it was made,” Ria Novosti quoted Ozerov as saying, adding that he did not think it “radically affected” the Turkish army’s operations in Syria or Ankara’s relations with Moscow.

On August 24, the Turkish Armed Forces launched an operation in Syria, the Euphrates Shield operation, with Free Syrian Army fighters to clear the country’s southern border of both the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces, which Ankara considers as a terrorist group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Relations between the two countries came to a halt in November 2015 after Turkish jets downed a Russian fighter jet on its border with Syria on grounds of airspace violation, which led to the killing of two Russian pilots.

It was not until late June when Erdoğan penned a letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that a rapprochement started. Since then the two leaders met three times in person.

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