Defense Minister: Turkey keeping its cool, calling Russia to dialogue (exclusive)

Defense Minister: Turkey keeping its cool, calling Russia to dialogue (exclusive)

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 18

By Orkhan Guluzade - Trend:

Turkey makes every effort to keep its cool and once again calls Russia to constructive dialogue, Turkish National Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said in an exclusive interview with Trend.

"We are making every effort to maintain contacts with the Russian side through diplomatic channels," said Yilmaz. "Turkey calls Russia to resolve the crisis through dialogue before Ankara has to take any measures."

On September 30, Russia began precision airstrikes against the IS terrorist group (ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) targets in Syria. Relations between Moscow and Ankara deteriorated greatly after Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber in Turkey's airspace Nov. 24, 2015. Ankara stated that Su-24 entered its airspace, while Moscow said the plane didn't violate Turkey's airspace.

Russia has announced a wide range of sanctions and has been laying obstacles to Turkish businesses operating inside Russia after the Su-24 incident.

Among the sanctions imposed by Moscow is the end of a visa-free travel agreement between the two countries and a ban on Turkish agricultural production. Russia has also called on its nationals to boycott Turkey as a tourist destination and announced that it is suspending talks on the joint Turkish Stream project to pipe gas to Turkey and southern Europe.

Yilmaz called Moscow's actions in relation to Turkish citizens and companies on the territory of the Russian Federation unjust, stressing that Russia and Turkey should take joint actions to ensure peace and stability in the region.

Minister of Turkish national security stressed that after repeated warnings made to the Su-24 bomber, the air forces of the country were forced to take measures against the airspace violator as part of the military doctrine.

Russia, instead of fighting the IS, carries out military operations against the opposition and civilians, in particular against Syrian Turkomans, according to Yilmaz.

"Over 90 percent of the military operations carried out by Russia in Syria are not directed against the IS," said Yilmaz, adding that Russia's operations against the IS are ineffective.

Earlier, Russian ambassador to Ankara Andrey Karlov said Turkey must meet three conditions for normalization of relations with Russia.

The conditions were: apologize for the Su-24 incident, punish those responsible for it and compensate Russia for the damage.

After the incident, the Turkish foreign ministry said that Turkey will not accept these conditions by Russia.

"Russia must respect borders and sovereignty of Turkey," Turkish defense minister said.

On Nov. 25, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems will be transferred to Russian military air base in Syria. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in turn, said that the defense ministry will transfer S-400 advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to the Khmeimim airbase in Syria, where Russian aviation group is based.

Regarding the placement of S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, creation of "A2/AD" (Anti-Access/Area-Denial) restricted access zone by Russia in Syria, Yilmaz noted that NATO is working on the adoption of measures against it, and Turkey supports and actively participates in this activity.

The minister said that deployment of Russian S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in Syria against the IS, which has no aircraft, once again proves that the decision of Moscow has nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

"On the contrary, it creates great risks for air operations of the international antiterrorist coalition, which fights the IS," said Yilmaz.

He also noted that the deployment of S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in the Syrian Latakia near the Turkish border undermines normalization of relations between the Russian Federation and Turkey.

Yilmaz said that armed clashes in Syria threaten stability in the region, and the Syrian leadership has great responsibility for this.

"Given this fact, Turkey is in a state of higher alert to prevent any threats and risks from Syria," said Yilmaz, adding that Turkey supports sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.

---

Follow the author on Twitter: @o_quluzade

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