Turkey, Saudi Arabia warn of Russia’s ‘mistake’ in Syria

Foreign ministers of Turkey, Saudi Arabia warn Russia against efforts to back Assad regime in Syria

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkish Foreign Minister, Feridun Sinirlioglu and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir

Turkey and Saudi Arabia warned that Russia was committing a "big mistake" by militarily intervening in Syria in a joint press conference in Ankara on Thursday given by Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu and his Saudi counterpart Adel al Jubeir.

"What it does will bring no meaning or benefit, other than delaying the transition process to help Syria out of the chaos," Sinirlioglu said, adding that Turkey will continue with its warnings.

Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia have condemned Russia’s aerial campaign in Syria, which began on Sept. 30 just hours after lawmakers in Moscow approved air strikes against ISIS militants who have seized swathes of land in the country, taking advantage of the security vacuum arising from the civil war between Bashar al Assad’s regime and opposition groups.

The intervention has strained previously warm relations between Ankara and Moscow amid mounting evidence that most Russian air strikes are targeting the Syrian opposition instead of ISIS.

Russia has backed the Assad regime throughout the war, which began in 2011 after a number of generals split from the regime to form the Free Syrian Army in response to being ordered to fire on peaceful protesters who were demanding democratic reforms.

On the other hand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, both key allies of the US, have consistently called on Assad to step down and condemned his regime for its crimes against humanity.

"Saudi Arabia and Turkey are in agreement on supporting the opposition in Syria. What is important is a political solution," Saudi Foreign Minister Jubeir said. "We are in agreement that there will certainly be no role for Bashar al Assad."

Earlier this month, Turkey was angered when Russian fighter jets bombing northern Syria twice crossed into Turkish airspace. A Russian military delegation led by Russian Air Force Major General, Sergey Dronov paid a visit to Turkish General Staff on Thursday in Ankara to share information regarding the breach.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously criticised the recent Russian military interventions in northern Syria backing Assad's regime, warning that “Russia will lose much if it loses Turkey.”

Turkish warplanes also shot down a drone that violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border on Friday, Turkish military said in a written statement. US official told Reuters that his country suspects the shot down drone may be Russian.

Alleged Russian drone shot down by Turkey on Syrian border

Concerns over Kurdish militants

Russia is also reported to have built ties with the Kurdish YPG militia, the armed wing of the PYD, which is considered to be an extension of the outlawed PKK. The ambassadors of both Russia and the US were summoned by Ankara to answer about their ties to the YPG amid reports that they were being armed to fight ISIS.

The Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday that its cargo planes dropped “small arms ammunition” for the newly-formed coalition led by the YPG, but Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that Turkey will destroy the weapons delivered to the YPG if they are transferred to the PKK or reach Turkish soil.

According to a recent report by Amnesty International, YPG militants have been committing war crimes in the region by forcing Arabs and Turkmen families out of their homes, and burning down their villages. Some civilians were reportedly threatened by militants of YPG with US-led air strikes if they failed to leave their homes.

In the press conference, Sinirlioglu warned PYD leader Salih Muslim against transferring the arms to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, the EU and NATO.

"We have sent a clear message to the PYD. Any action against Turkey will be punished without any hesitation," Sinirlioglu said.

Russia, meanwhile, has denied arming the YPG, while Salih Muslim has reassured that his forces have no intention of attacking Turkey.


TRTWorld and agencies