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Russia planning no war with Turkey — FM

Sergey Lavrov after talks with his Turkish counterpart said Moscow's attitude towards Turkish people has not changed though it has changed towards the Turkish leadership
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Artiom Geodakyan/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Artiom Geodakyan/TASS

MOSCOW, November 25. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov after talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Moscow isn't planning any war on Turkey.

"We are not planning to wage a war against Turkey, our attitude towards the Turkish people has not changed," the minister said. "We have questions only to the Turkish leadership."

The minister said the Russian side has always tried to "organize practical and pragmatic relations with our Turkish neighbors, including in the context of the Syrian crisis, especially now that we started the Aerospace Forces’ operation in the Syrian Arab Republic on a request from official Damascus."

"The president specially underscored yesterday that we have always tried to treat the regional interests of our neighbors with respect, including Turkey’s regional interests," Lavrov said.

"Now probably many things of what we are saying now should not be a secret, regarding how terrorists use Turkish territory to prepare their operations in Syria, to prepare terrorist acts in different countries, regarding efforts or lack of efforts on the part of official authorities to fight that," he said.

"These facts were long known to everyone. We did actually not try to turn a blind eye to them, but we were constantly trying to take into account the legitimate interests of our Turkish neighbors and were trying to openly explain our policy in trust-based dialogue with them," Lavrov said.

"We were trying to persuade them to conduct a more well-reasoned policy, not focused only on deposition of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad by any means and stipulating in this connection allied relations with any extremist groups," he said.

"We have never made public this work at any levels. We have never voiced any negative assessments of the Turkish leadership’s actions," Lavrov said.

"We have always called for search for constructive joint actions both in the bilateral context and in the context of multilateral efforts to settle the Syrian crisis, to fight terrorism," he said.

"Unfortunately, Ankara has not reciprocated," Lavrov said.

He said that even before the actions of Russia’s Aerospace Forces in Syria, Ankara’s assessments of the Russian Federation’s policy in the Syrian crisis were "improper for an official presentation by the Turkish Republic’s top leaders."

According to the diplomat, friendly relations between the peoples of Russia and Turkey do not depend on politicians, but the bilateral ties will be seriously revised after the plane downing incident.

The Russian leadership has no plans to pay visits to Turkey or receive its representatives in Moscow, the Foreign Minister Sergey said.

Lavrov noted that he was going to travel to Turkey to take part in a sessioin of the Russian-Turkish strategic planning council, which is a coordinating body of the interstate dialogue. "Of course, after the attack against our aircraft we have cancelled this session," the minister said.

"We have no plans so far to visit Turkey or receive our Turkish counterparts here," Lavrov said. "Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed hope that we will be able to sit down and discuss everything calmly on the sidelines of some international events, in particular, the OSCE Ministerial Council, which will take place in Belgrade on December 3 and 4. I made no commitments, first of all, we should not discuss but understand all aspects of what has happened."

"We do not evade contacts, my conversation with minister Cavusoglu today proves that," Lavrov said.

Nevertheless, Russia is not willing to artificially create problems for Russian and Turkish companies and producers.

"Currently, the government is considering the whole range of those relations," the minister said. "We’re not willing to artificially create problems for Turkish producers and exporters who do not bear responsibility for what has happened. We’re not willing to create additional problems for our companies, which cooperate with the Turkish side either. But we cannot leave what has happened unanswered, and not because we necessarily have to respond by doing something. The thing is that too many factors in Turkey's territory are posing direct terrorist threat to Russian citizens, and not only to Russian citizens. This is some kind of a bridgehead, which probably is hardly controlled by anyone. Though there are reports that those processes are followed by security services one way or another," Lavrov said.

"Being multifunctional and multicomponent, the situation requires an interagency analysis, which will be swiftly executed. Proposals for reporting to the president will also be prepared," the minister said, adding that "hopefully this all will happen quickly and we surely won’t make any offers, which would artificially create distance between our countries’ people."

Lavrov said that his Turkish counterpart expressed regret over the Sukhoi-24M incident, but at the same time tried to present excuses for the action taken by the Turkish Air Force.

"We were waiting for explanations from the Turkish side yesterday and at a higher level. Better late than never," Lavrov said following the telephone conversation.

"What should Turkey do to normalise the situation? - the minister asked. "It is necessary to draw the conclusions, after all, that attacks like yesterday’s incident are absolutely unacceptable. I have heard condolences from (Turkish Foreign) Minister Cavusoglu, but all the other statements were aimed at justifying the Turkish position."

According to the Russian minister, Cavusoglu assured him that Ankara wants to preserve friendly ties with Moscow. However, the Turkish minister declined to answer whether Turkey seeks to fence off areas of militants’ infrastructure facilities in Syria.

"The Turkish minister has assured [me] in [Turkey’s] striving to preserve friendly relations but kept repeating that Turkey has the right to strike any airspace intruders," Lavrov said.

"The Turkish foreign minister claimed that despite multiple warnings the plane strayed into Turkey’s airspace for 17 seconds," Lavrov said. "He also claimed that Turkish controllers on the ground and pilots were unaware it was a Russian plane, because Syrian warplanes are also present in the area."

Sergey Lavrov also noted that the attack on Russia’s Su-24M plane looks like a planned provocation.

"We have serious doubts that it was unintentional, it looks like a planned provocation," Lavrov said, adding that some Russian partners call the downing incident "an obvious ambush."

The Russian diplomat also dwelled on NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's statement regarding the incident. Lavrov noted that the stetment wasn't coordinated in detail with other NATO members, and stressed that the statement covers up Turkey.

"It seemed to me that there was a somewhat contrived statement (by Stoltenberg), which by and large covers up the Turkish side in this incident," the minister said. "NATO, after all, has 28 members, so they could not make a secret of the fact that the discussion in Brussels was held yesterday. And some information has reached us."

"It was hot there, a very heated debate," Lavrov said. "And Turkey was sharply rebuked for the attack on Russia’s plane. However, the notorious allied solidarity prevailed after all."

"But we also know that the statement made by the NATO secretary general, was not literally agreed with everybody," the minister said. "He kind of assumed the responsibility, and then, probably looked at the leading NATO members, listened to them and said what he said." "In particular, I would like to draw the attention, and I have told (Turkish Foreign Minister) Mr. Cavusoglu this, to his phrase that yesterday’s incident once again necessitates measures in the context of Russian military infrastructure’s dangerous approach to the NATO borders," Lavrov said. "I hope that all the people present here are competent and there is no need to explain to them on what, generally speaking, hypocritical background these statements are based."

"Representatives of the European Union have made just about the same statements," the minister said. He said that the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini was going to make an address at the European Parliament on Wednesday. "She has also asked for a telephone conversation, maybe after a meeting with you we’ll get this opportunity," the foreign minister told journalists.

The diplomat noted that Moscow knows the US always demands from its coalition members in Syria to coordinate use of US combat planes. Thus, he pointed to the possibility of the Turkish authorities agreeing with the United States their decision to order its warplanes in the air to shoot down the Russian plane.

"Some members of the coalition, including those providing their combat planes for strikes against Iraq and Syria have confided to us the planes involved were of US manufacture and the Americans normally request US permission for such operations," Lavrov said. "As far as I understand, our plane was downed by a US-made F-16. It remains to be seen whether the US requirement is applicable to Turkey, and if it is, I would like to know if Turkey had asked the United States for permission to send its planes on a combat mission and to shoot down a plane, albeit probably an identified one, over Syrian territory."

Russia hopes that Tuesday’s attack against its Sukhoi-24M bomber over Syria will not be used for pushing through the idea of creating a no-fly zone in the north of Syria.

"According to latest reports, there are hundreds and may be even thousands of militants from Russia in this region, which our Turkish colleagues consider to be inhabited by people who are loyal to Turkey. These militants are creating a direct threat to our security and the security of our people. According to our information, terrorist facilities such as weapons and ammunition depots as well as command centers and supply points are also located in this region," the Russian foreign minister said.

Lavrov asked the Turkish foreign minister if Ankara’s attention to that region, including permanent proposals on creating a buffer zone over that territory, should be regarded as an attempt to fence off this infrastructure and prevent its destruction. Lavrov did not get any answer.

"Yesterday’s attack by the Turkish Air Force against a Russian aircraft shows the situation with illegal oil trade and the underground oil industry which the IS has created in its territory in a new light. Yesterday’s incident happened after Russian warplanes had started delivering quite effective and targeted strikes against those tank trucks and oil fields," Lavrov said.

He recalled that on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Antalya the Turkish side raised the possibility of creating a buffer or no-fly zone.

Lavrov expressed the hope that "such encroachments implying intrusion into Syrian territory, the territory of a sovereign state, will not go on."

"Yesterday’s attack against our plane and the whole situation is not to be used for pushing through the idea of a no-fly, buffer zone by hook or by crook."

He pointed out that Turkish planes violate Greece's airspace some 1,500 times a year.

The official stressed that the recommendations to Russian citizens not to visit Turkey is not revenge, and it's based on the assessment of the terrorist threat.

"As for the recommendations to our citizens not to visit Turkey, this is not revenge, this was not the off-the-cuff decision," he said. "We assessed the presence of the terrorist threat in Turkey without bias."

Turkey has no intention to break up with Russia, fan tensions

Turkey keeps all lines of contact with Russia open, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu told parliament on Wednesday.

"Russia is our neighbor, friend and very important partner. We have no intention to sever ties or fan tensions in connection with this incident. But we have the right to protect our borders and will be using it further on. The plane was seen as a threat and the rules of response were used," he claimed.

Davutoglu argues that the measures against the Russian plane were "implemented within the framework of international rules of response."

He accused Russia of attacking Syria’s Turkomans using the struggle against the Islamic State as a pretext.

An F-16 fighter of the Turkish Air Force on Tuesday shot down Russia’s Sukhoi-24M bomber which, as Ankara keeps claiming, had violated the country’s air space near the border with Syria.