Following the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey last week, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up with Russia effectively calling Turkey’s President Erdogan a thief and a liar.
Russia, Turkey relations at a low and getting worse
Following the downing of a Russian bomber that both Turkish and United States officials say was in Turkey’s airspace, the rhetoric is getting worse. However, increased rhetoric is to big expected and is certainly preferable to any sort of Russian military retaliation against NATO member Turkey.
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That, does not mean the issue has been put to bed by a long shot and Vladimir Putin speaking at a press conference today in Paris made sure of that. But then, of course, he’s not the only one.
On the same day that Vladimir Putin called the downing of the Russian bomber a “huge mistake,” the US state department said evidence from US and Turkish sources show that the aircraft did indeed violate Turkish airspace.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the US wanted to “encourage dialogue now… we need to de-escalate the situation.”
That dialogue, so far, has been limited to sabre-rattling and demands for an apology. At least for now that apology is not forthcoming.
Turkish Prime Minster Ahmet Davutoglu said the incident was “unfortunate” but that Turkey, as a sovereign nation, had every right to protect itself and that Turkey would not be apologizing.
Additional Russian sanctions
Perhaps as planned or perhaps in response to this lack of an apology from Davutoglu, Russia announced further sanctions against Turkey. Russia announced today that it would ban the import of Turkish fruits and vegetables as well as other agricultural products.
Russia is Turkey’s second largest trading partner, so any increase in banned products like industrial goods would be a blow to Turkey. Russia, nearly immediately after the downing of the plane, suspended visa-free travel with Turkey and urged its citizens not to visit Turkey, a vacation destination for over three million Russians last year alone.
Putin accuses Turkey of being a conduit for IS oil
When asked at a press conference, following the first day of the climate change summit in Paris, if he supported a broad anti-terrorist coalition to combat IS Putin followed with a biting response saying, “We always supported this.” “However, this cannot be done while someone continues to use several terrorist organizations to reach their immediate goals,” he continued.
“We have recently received additional reports that confirm that that oil from ISIL-controlled territories is delivered to the territory of Turkey on an industrial scale,” Putin noted.
“We have all grounds to suspect that the decision to down our plane was motivated by the intention to secure these routes of delivering oil to ports where it is loaded on tankers,” he said.
“Defending Turkmen is just a pretext,” Putin continued.
Erdogan uses Paris podium to deny Putin “Slander”
Following day one of the UN Climate Change Conference with 140 world leaders, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to resign if Putin’s claims (“slander”) turned out to be true.
Erdogan said, “If such an allegation is proven, I will no longer sit at this post. I call onto Putin, would you?”
The president of Turkey made then made it clear that Turkey only buys oil from “known” sources. “We buy from Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Nigeria. We won’t accept such slanders,” he continued.
Not you? “Must be your son” suggests Syria and Russia
Last week, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem prompted US Secretary of State John Kerry to look into rumors that the Turkish President’s son was involved in the sale of IS oil.
“I’d like to mention rumors that Erdogan’s son could be involved in illegal oil trade with the IS, although there are no proofs. If I was in Kerry’s place, I’d make an attempt to shed light on these reports,” Muallem said after Kerry made comments saying that the Damascus government was buying IS oil.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, also broached the topic once the cat was proverbially out of the bag.
“Everything is a matter of practice. Let us operate with facts. There have been many reports that god knows who is living off the oil wells illegally seized by the Islamic State,” Lavrov said.
“When our aviation started flying in the Syrian airspace at the request of (Syrian president) Bashar al-Assad, we saw the whole picture of that illegal business from above. Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about that on several occasions, including yesterday’s news conference and the G20 summit in Antalya where he had shown space and aerial images – very eloquent and very convincing – to his colleagues,” Lavrov continued.
“The US-led coalition started flying over Iraq and Syria, without the Syrian government’s consent by the way, more than a year before the Russian military operation. I am convinced that they saw all that but did not do anything for some unknown reason. Russian warplanes started bombing that criminal industry when they began operation in that area,” Lavrov said.
“Of course, it’s certainly not a coincidence that our Turkish neighbors grew more and more nervous after that,” the Russian foreign minister said with bravado.
“So my answer is very simple: if the United States is so much concerned with the fact that god knows who is benefiting from the illegal oil business, the illegal oil field should stop functioning.
“The US coalition and the Americans themselves started doing that after Russia had actively intervened with air strikes. I would say that then the US partners were forced to do that, so to speak, in order not to lag behind us in the struggle against terrorist infrastructure,” Lavrov concluded.