Moscow Demands Answers After Erdoğan Vows to Oust ‘tyrant’ Assad
The Kremlin on Wednesday demanded an explanation after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara intervened in the Syria conflict solely to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkish forces are pressing on with a three-month operation inside Syria in support of anti-Assad forces, while Russia is the chief ally of the Syrian president in the conflict that has claimed more than 300,000 lives since 2011.
At the same time, Turkey and Russia have also been working hard to improve relations after clinching a reconciliation deal in June to repair ties brought to a historic low by Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet in November 2015.
Erdoğan had said at a meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday: “We went in there to put an end to the rule of the tyrant Assad who carries out state terror, not for anything else.”
His comments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to meet Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavusoglu in the Turkish resort of Alanya on Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists he hoped that “clarification will come shortly from our Turkish partners”.
Peskov said Erdoğan’s comment “is not in harmony with previous statements” and “not in harmony with our understanding of the situation”.
Peskov stressed Wednesday that “Turkey is our partner” and said Putin and Erdoğan are “in very intensive and confidential contact”.
Erdoğan and Putin discussed the Syria conflict by phone on Saturday for the second time in just over 24 hours.
Peskov said Erdoğan “did not make such statements (on Assad) during his contacts with our president.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, who heads the Russian government-linked Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, told Interfax news agency it was against Turkey’s interests to take a categorical position on Assad.
“Since Ankara is highly interested in cooperation with Moscow — as the Turkish side stresses constantly at various levels — that would run counter to this.”
“The various players see Moscow’s actions in Syria differently, but as a result of those actions, Assad’s position has seriously strengthened,” he said.