Turkey denies discussing ‘any working group’ with Russia

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies discussing with Russian authorities establishment of ‘any working group’ in order to coordinate military activities concerning air strikes in Syria

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic speaks to journalists during a press conference

Updated Oct 8, 2015

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied on Wednesday all discussions with Russian officials about the establishment of a working group between the countries towards the coordination of military activities concerning air strikes against militant groups in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tanju Bilgic stated in a press conference on Wednesday that “During our discussions with the Russian Federation authorities and meetings between respective military posts, no talk has been held on framing any working group,” replying to a question about the recent Russian violation of Turkish airspace during Russian air strikes in Syria.

Russia has been bombing opposition-held territories in the country since late September.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed on Tuesday, speaking to the Russian media, that Turkey has proposed to establish a working group with Russia in order to plan air strikes against targets in Syria.

Konashenkov said, Turkey conveyed its proposition on the working group through a Russian attache working at the Istanbul consulate.

Konashenkov also claimed that his American counterparts have been proposing to coordinate aerial military movements in Syria.  

“The Russian Defense Ministry has responded to the Pentagon’s request and promptly considered the American proposal on coordination of actions in the framework of the fight against the terror group ISIS,” he said in a report published by Russian TASS news agency, according to Reuters.

Deputy Defense Minister, Anatoly Antonov stated that Russian military is “in principle” positive on the proposed agreement by the US interlocutors after he held a meeting on Tuesday with defence press attaches representing several countries including the US.

In addition, he also stated that Russian and US defence ministers have exchanged their ideas on “safe use of air forces” in a video conference held on Oct. 1.

The Russian air strikes against the anti-Assad opposition groups in Syria has led to considerable discontent, and have particularly been protested by Turkey, the US, and the NATO.

Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu strongly criticised the air strikes on Wednesday saying that, "[Russians] are not making their air strikes against DAESH [ISIS],” speaking in a meeting organised by his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Istanbul.

“Russian Air Force has carried out 55 air strikes against moderate opposition groups out of a total of their 57 air strikes in Syria. They have only carried out two attacks against DAESH according to our military sources,” he stated.

Russia added another dangerous dimension to its Syrian actions when it reportedly violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border with its fighter jets on Saturday. There have been reports about a second and a third violation of Turkish airspace by MIG-29 fighter jets whose nationalities could not be identified by Turkish Air Force.

Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested the violation and summoned the Russian ambassador to convey its condemnation of the breach, according to a statement released on Monday.

NATO also called on Russia to stop its incursions into the airspace of a member country, following an emergency meeting in Brussels on Monday.

In addition, Russian Parliament’s top defence lawmaker, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov on Monday announced that “volunteers” from the Russian Federation will possibly join the Syrian war on the side of Assad's regime in order to fight against opposition forces, increasing the tension with Turkey and the NATO alliance.

Turkey and US have consistently called for the Assad regime to step down, while Russia has supported the regime since the beginning of the conflict.

TRTWorld and agencies