Russia to Turkey: No apology, no Erdogan-Putin meeting

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Updated 28 November 2015

Russia to Turkey: No apology, no Erdogan-Putin meeting

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has refused to contact Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan because Ankara does not want to apologize for the downing of a Russian warplane, Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s aide, said on Friday.
“We see Turkey’s unwillingness to simply apologize for the incident with the plane,” Ushakov told reporters when asked why Putin has refused to talk with Erdogan.
On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying, Russia should apologize for violating Turkey’s airspace.
Ushakov said the Kremlin had received a request from Ankara regarding a possible meeting between the two leaders at a climate conference in Paris on Nov. 30 and that Putin would be informed about it later on Friday.
In Paris, Putin will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the Syrian crisis and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks about Syria and Ukraine, Ushakov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said on Friday that Moscow had questions whether Turkey had real intentions to fight terrorism.
“We have more and more questions about the activity of Ankara and its real commitment to eradicating terrorism,” Lavrov told a news conference after meeting his Syrian counterpart Walid Al-Moualem in Moscow.
In Bucharest, Russia’s lower house speaker Sergei Naryshkin said his country has the right to make a military response to Turkey.
Speaking in an interview with Romanian television station Digi24, Naryshkin, who spoke in Russian and was translated by the broadcaster, said: “This is intentional murder of our soldiers and this deed must be punished.”
The shooting down of the Russian warplane by the Turkish air force on Tuesday was one of the most serious clashes between a NATO member and Russia, and further complicated international efforts to battle Daesh militants.
“We know those who did this and they must be judged. At the same time, the response from the Russian side will surely follow, in line with international law. And aside from this, Russia has also the right to military response,” added Naryshkin, who was attending a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC) in Bucharest.
Naryshkin, who said economic measures against Turkey might be on the cards, said Moscow had allocated additional military resources on Thursday to boost the security of Russian warplanes.
“Even yesterday, military resources were allocated, (for) the S400 Triumph, which is the most advanced missile defense system, with the role to maintain flight safety of Russian planes, of our military and air forces whose task is to destroy terrorist infrastructure of the so-called Islamic State and other organizations operating in Syria.”
World leaders have urged both sides to avoid escalation, and China’s Foreign Ministry added its voice to that on Friday.


Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

Updated 26 November 2020

Turkish president denies country has a ‘Kurdish issue’

  • Erdogan defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts
  • Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq: analyst

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied the country has a “Kurdish issue,” even as he doubled down on his anti-Kurdish stance and accused a politician of being a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Erdogan was addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Nov. 25 when he made the remarks.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched an insurgency against the state in 1984, and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US. Erdogan accuses the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, which it denies.

Erdogan told AKP members that Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s former co-chair who challenged him in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”

Demirtas has been behind bars since Nov. 4, 2016, despite court orders calling for his release and faces hundreds of years in prison over charges related to the outlawed PKK.

The president defended the removal of 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country's Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections in March 2019.

He also said the AKP would design and implement democratization reforms with its nationalistic coalition partner, which is known for its anti-Kurdish credentials.  

His words are likely to disrupt the peace efforts that Turkey has been making with its Kurdish community for years, although they have been baby steps. They could also hint at a tougher policy shift against Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

According to Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani, Erdogan’s comments should be read as a reaction to Tuesday’s resignation of top presidential aide Bulent Arinc, who urged for Demirtas to be released and insisted that the Kurds were repressed within Turkey.

“This gained widespread coverage in the Kurdish media, including in Iraqi Kurdistan's outlet Rudaw which has international viewership,” he told Arab News. “Erdogan wanted to stop speculation on this issue.”

Ramani said that Erdogan's lack of sensitivity to the Kurdish issue could inflame tensions with Kurds in Syria and Iraq.

“It is also an oblique warning to US President-elect Joe Biden not to try to interfere in Turkish politics by raising the treatment of Kurds within Turkey.”

But Erdogan’s comments would matter little in the long run, he added.

“Much more will depend on whether Turkey mounts another Operation Peace Spring-style offensive in northern Syria, which is a growing possibility. If that occurs during the Trump to Biden transition period, the incoming Biden administration could be more critical of Turkey and convert its rhetoric on solidarity with the Kurds into action.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key partner for the US in its fight against Daesh. During a campaign speech in Oct. 2019, Biden criticized the US decision to withdraw from Syria as a “complete failure” that would leave Syrian Kurds open to aggression from Turkey.

“It’s more insidious than the betrayal of our brave Kurdish partners, it’s more dangerous than taking the boot off the neck of ISIS,” Biden said at the time.

UK-based analyst Bill Park said that Erdogan was increasingly influenced by his coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

“He might also believe that both the PKK and the HDP have been so weakened that he doesn't have to take them into consideration,” he told Arab News. “The Western world will not respond dramatically to this announcement but they are tired of Erdogan. There is little hope that Turkey's relations with the US or the EU can be much improved. The Syrian Kurdish PYD militia are seeking an accommodation with Damascus, while the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the largest party in Iraqi Kurdistan, is indifferent to the fate of Turkey's Kurds and has problems of its own.”

The HDP, meanwhile, is skeptical about Erdogan’s reform pledges and sees them as “politicking.”

“This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”

Turkey’s next election is scheduled for 2023, unless there is a snap election in a year.