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MEHMET ALİ BİRAND > Syria occupies a small part in Turkish-Russian relations

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The prime minister is going to Moscow today. He has two files under his arm. 

The first and thickest one is on bilateral relations. The other is on Syria. 

Several columnists assume that the difference of opinion on Syria will turn into a kind of dispute, and that the two leaders will talk about Bashar al-Assad all day long. 

They could not be more wrong. 

Ankara draws attention to the fact that relations with the Russians are gradually transforming from “being very good neighbors” to being “partners.” Consequently, bilateral topics are extremely important. To quote a top level official: “Syria has a very small place within Turkish-Russian relations.” 

Indeed, Erdoğan will try to persuade Putin on Syria. However, the Russians, at this stage, are not in favor of letting go of al-Assad. They are also aware that the situation is increasingly deteriorating. Despite that, they will wait for a while. Because, for them, Syria is not a country to suddenly turn ones back to, or to leave its fate to what comes out of the mouth of the United States. They do not want to lose their superpower status. 

When viewed from that angle, the visit today will be more beneficial for bilateral relations. 

Still not known how the plane went down 

It is still not known how the plane that crashed over Syria “went down.” 

Including the General Staff, all the “officials” have talked so much that the mind of the public was very much confused. Add to this the social passion for “creating conspiracy theories,” then the thing went out of control. Such a wave of disbelief went around that there were even those who said: “I guess we have downed our own plane and are blaming Syria for it.” 

Ankara issued very unnecessary statements to stir things up. However, when you talk to people who have monitored the incident closely, you come up with a different scene. 

Let me share with you my impressions item by item:

No other foreign country has as precise information as we have. Neither the United States nor Russia, nor Israel has any concrete evidence. The Turkish Air Force has records of the plane at every second. Other countries have derived a conclusion after analyzing what they saw in their radars. The scenarios they come up with are no different to what the Turkish Air Force has. In other words, no attention should be paid to foreign based statements with loaded meanings. 

The data collected up to now, the conversations between the pilots and headquarters, the radar data and the surfaced pieces have all eliminated these possibilities:

- The plane was downed with a guided missile. 

- It was hit by anti-aircraft. 

During the flight, climatic conditions were highly favorable. For example, there was no turbulence. Technical trouble is out of the question. The only assumption left is that it was hit by a heat-guided missile. In order to reach a precise result, the entire wreckage has to be brought to the surface, and that will be done toward the end of August. 

To tell the truth, it does not really matter how the plane was downed, because what’s done cannot be undone. Turkey’s policy will not change whether it was done by a missile or anti-aircraft fire. The answer to that question is being sought to satisfy the public, and of course, also to prevent conspiracy theories.

Be sure that we have been involved in a futile debate for 25 days. If officials in Ankara, including the General Staff, had formed better communication and had not come out with such unnecessary and untimely statements, then the public would not have been caught in the waves to this extent. 
Whatever, what is now done cannot be undone. 

Everything will become clear toward the end of August…

July/18/2012

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