Putin says Turkey highly important partner for Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls Turkey one of his country's most important partners

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the VTB Capital Investment Forum in Moscow, Russia on October 13, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that  Turkey is one of his country’s most important partners and noted relation-building with Turkey is crucial in countering terrorism.

Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow, the Russian president also said Russia is not claiming leadership in Syria.

In addition, Putin said actors involved in Syria - naming Russia, the US and Europe - should promote political dialogue between the factions in the Syrian conflict and that existing cooperation with Western countries over the issue is not at the desired level.

Russian air strikes targeting mostly Syrian opposition-held territories in the country rather than ISIS have strongly been protested by Turkey, the US, and the NATO alliance.

The Russian air strikes have mainly targeted the Fatah Army which is an anti-Assad opposition alliance included among the groups backed by the US.

Turkey and the US have consistently called for an end to the Assad regime, backing opposition groups, while Russia has supported the regime since the beginning of the conflict.

Russia has added another dimension to the crisis by violating Turkish airspace near the Syrian border with fighter jets in recent weeks.

Russian warplanes have frequently violated Turkish airspace despite harsh warnings from Turkey and NATO.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Russia wants to protect its good ties with Turkey, after Turkey expressed disconent regarding Moscow’s repeaed operations in Syria.

"As for the Russian Air Force operation in Syria, our actions in support of safeguarding Syria contribute to ensuring stability and security in the region sitting on Turkey's borders," Peskov said.

Two Turkish senior officials stated on Tuesday that Turkey has warned the United States and Russia about the territorial gains of the Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in northwestern Syria.

A declaration was made by Turkey in late June that the state would consider any incursion to the west of the Euphrates river in northern Syria along the Turkish border by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a violation of a "red line” and Turkey will never allow the establishment of a Kurdish controlled state in northern Syria at all costs.

"This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” a Turkish official told Reuters.

"The PYD has been recently getting closer with both the United States and Russia. However, we recognize PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,’’ the official said, adding that Turkey will never accept this.

Turkey and the US, which agree in general over how the Syrian conflict should be resolved, differ over the role of the PYD, with Turkey finding it unacceptable that the US backs forces linked to the separatist PKK terrorist group.

Despite fighting against ISIS, the PYD is seen as no different by Turkey than the PKK which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, EU and the UK.

In November 2013, the PYD declared the establishment of three autonomous areas or “cantons” - Afrin, Jazira and Kobane - from west to the east in northern Syria following the withdrawal of Syrian regime forces.

The PYD's People's Protection Units (YPG) militia captured Tel Abyad from ISIS last summer and was able to link the Kobane and the Jazira “cantons,” allowing it to control most of Syria’s Turkish border, fuelling Turkey’s concerns over the establishment of a PYD controlled region there.

Turkey has also raised concerns over border security and forcible displacement of Turkmen and Arabs from Tal Abyad by YPG militants, accusing the militia of pursuing "demographic change" in northern Syria.

Amnesty International on Tuesday reported that the YPG committed war crimes by driving out thousands of civilians and destroying their homes in the region under its control.

TRTWorld and agencies