Neither Syria nor Russia attacked on Turkish soldiers: Lavrov
Sevil Erkuş - ALANYANeither Syria nor Russia carried out an attack on Turkish soldiers in northern Syria on Nov. 24, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said, calling on Ankara “to continue to improve coordination to concentrate on the anti-terror fight.”
“Neither Russia nor Syria, with its air force, had anything to do with this. We don’t want a repetition of these sort of incidents. It’s essential to discuss this issue with the United States and other institutions,” Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Dec. 1, without elaborating on who might be responsible.
Four Turkish soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in an air strike on Nov. 24 during the “Euphrates Shield” – a Turkish-backed Free Syrian army (FSA) operation in northern Syria.
Turkey said it believed the attack was carried out by the Syrian army even though Damascus never claimed responsibility for the strike.
Due to a translation mistake, Lavrov’s remarks were first translated as if he had accepted the Syrian regime’s role in air strikes, but the Russian Embassy and the Turkish Foreign Ministry corrected the statement.
Turkey mediator for talks between Syrian opposition and Russia
Just before the Lavrov-Çavuşoğlu meeting, it was revealed that Russian officials and representatives from the Syrian opposition had conducted meetings in Ankara with the mediation of Turkey, according to sources. The two parties have been discussing a potential cease-fire in Aleppo, the evacuation of the wounded and humanitarian efforts, sources who wished to remain anonymous told the Hürriyet Daily News.
At the joint press conference, Lavrov confirmed the negotiations with the opposition group and said Russia was “ready for talks with anybody” for a solution to the Syrian crisis. Russia and Turkey “are exchanging views” on the issue, he added.
Çavuşoğlu, for his part, said talks between Russia and Syrian opposition would be natural, indicating that the meeting could be possible upon Ankara’s demand.
Russia to continue operations in Aleppo
Another top issue on the agenda of the two ministers was the situation in Aleppo where civilians have been heavily targeted by the Syrian government in recent weeks.
Russia will continue its operations in eastern Aleppo and will rescue the Syrian city from terrorists, Lavrov said, adding that Russia would continue efforts to allow humanitarian aid into the country’s commercial capital.
Çavuşoğlu said they had agreed on the need for a cease-fire in Aleppo and the rest of Syria and stressed Turkey wanted a political solution in neighboring country.
Euphrates Shield aims to defeat ISIL
Elaborating President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks that Turkey’s military intervention into Syria was merely aimed at toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey’s stance on al-Assad was clear, and that despite differences on the Syrian president, Ankara and Moscow agreed that a political solution was needed in Syria.
“The target of the Euphrates Shield operation is clear: we want to clear the region from DAESH [the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and al-Nusra. We are struggling against all terrorist organizations, like the PYD, YPG and PKK,” Çavuşoğlu stated, in reference to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its offshoots in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Lavrov: We want accelerated normalization
The two foreign ministers have reviewed the ongoing process of normalization in bilateral ties and preparations for a high-level cooperation council meeting that will take place in upcoming months under the leadership of the countries’ presidents.
Lavrov stressed they wanted to accelerate the normalization between Turkey and Russia. Russia intends to lift sanctions on Turkey “gradually,” he said, while Çavuşoğlu underlined that both parties should immediately eliminate barriers to trade. Visa requirements should also be lifted, the Turkish minister stated.
They aim to stop a decrease in the foreign trade deficit between Turkey and Russia, the Russian foreign minister said, while recalling the signing of the Turkish Stream natural gas pipeline project.
But Lavrov called on Turkish exporters to increase health standards on agricultural products, particularly in meat products, he stated. Russia promotes major Turkish investments in his country, and the work of Turkish businessman has never stopped, Lavrov noted.
“We’ll continue to work with Turkish companies for major projects in Russia,” he stated. Before lifting visa requirements, the mobility of people connected to terrorist activities should be prevented, entailing cooperation between security institutions and consulates, he said.