Putin rules out reconciliation with Turkey

17th December 2015, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Vladimir Putin fired off an angry tirade against Turkey on Thursday, ruling out any reconciliation with its leaders and accusing Ankara of shooting down a Russian warplane to impress the United States.

In comments littered with crude language, Putin dismissed the possibility that the downing of the warplane over the Turkey-Syria border last month was an accident, calling it a "hostile act".

"We find it difficult if not impossible to come to an agreement with the current leadership of Turkey," the Kremlin strongman said at his annual news conference.

"On the state level, I don't see any prospects of improving relations with the Turkish leadership," he said of Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ties between Russia and the NATO member have hit rock bottom since the November 24 incident, which led to deaths of two Russian military officers.

Turkey has said the Russian jet strayed into its airspace and ignored repeated warnings, but Moscow insists it never left Syrian territory.

Putin said he did not rule out that Ankara was acting with tacit approval from Washington, possibly so that the United States would look the other way to let Turkey "go onto Iraqi territory and occupy part of it".

"I don't know if there was such a trade-off, maybe there was," Putin said.

"If somebody in the Turkish leadership decided to lick the Americans in one place... I don't know, if they did the right thing," he added.

"Did they think we would run away now? Russia is not that kind of country," Putin said, speaking of Moscow's increased military presence in Syria.

"If Turkey flew there all the time before, breaching Syrian airspace, well, let's see how they fly now."

Turkey has voiced concern about Russian air raids in northern Syria because of the Turkmen minority in the area, a Turkic-speaking people who have had an uneasy relationship with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

But Putin declared: "I've never heard anything about these so-called Turkmen.

"I know that there are our Turkmen, living in Turkmenistan," he said, referring to the ex-Soviet Central Asian country.

Putin also accused Turkey's leaders of overseeing a "creeping Islamisation" of the country "which would probably cause (modern Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal) Ataturk to turn in his grave."

- Not an 'enemy state' -

Putin and Erdogan have been locked in a war of words since the plane downing, and Moscow has even accused Erdogan's family of engaging in oil smuggling operations with Islamic State jihadists.

On Thursday, Putin went as far as to say that the Islamic State group was a "secondary issue" in Syria as it was created as "cannon fodder under Islamist slogans" to protect economic interests of other players, although he did not name Turkey.

However, he said he does not consider Turkey an enemy state. "They committed an enemy act against our aviation, but to say that we view Turkey as enemy state -- that is not the case."

Russia has imposed a number of sanctions on Turkey but Putin brushed aside questions from journalists about raids against Turkish firms and expulsions of Turkish students from Russian universities.

Putin said that had the downing of the plane been an accident, Turkish leaders should have tried to "pick up the phone and explain themselves".

Erdogan attempted to call Putin on the day of the incident, but the Kremlin ignored his request to speak to the Russian leader.

© 2015 AFP

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