Erdogan Says Syria’s Assad, not Turkey, Backing ISIL
Turkish president says Syrian regime buying oil from ISIL, after Russian claims that Ankara was funding the armed group
Turkey’s president has said the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is funding the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and denied that Ankara has bought any oil from the group.
Speaking on Thursday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also insisted Turkey’s fight against the group was “undisputed”.
“Shame on you. Those who claim we buy oil from Daesh [ISIL] are obliged to prove it. If not, you are a slanderer,” Erdogan said, lashing out at charges from Moscow after the downing of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border on Tuesday.
“ISIL sells the oil they drill to Assad. To Assad. Talk this over with Assad you support,” he said. Moscow is one of the few remaining allies of the Damascus regime.
Russia, a major trade partner and Turkey’s second biggest energy supplier after Iran, has demanded an apology for the shooting down of the plane by Turkish forces.
But Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said Ankara did not need to apologise “on an occasion that we are right,” adding that he had already said “sorry” in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the act as a “stab in the back” by “accomplices of terrorists.”
But Erdogan denied Ankara was collaborating with ISIL.
“Our country’s stance against Daesh has been clear since the very beginning,” Erdogan said in a speech to local officials at his presidential palace in the Turkish capital.
“There is no question mark here. Nobody has the right to dispute our country’s fight against Daesh or to incriminate us.”
Turkey and Russia stand on opposing sides of the four-year Syrian conflict, with Ankara pushing for the ousting of Assad by backing moderate opposition rebels.
Russia further enraged Turkey with the launch of its air campaign in Syria in September, accusing Moscow of focusing its fire on moderate rebels rather than ISIL fighters.
“Those who carry out a military campaign with the pretext of fighting Daesh are targeting anti-regime opponents,” Erdogan said.
“You say you are fighting Daesh. Excuse me, but you are not fighting Daesh. You are killing our Turkmen kinsmen hand-in-hand with the regime in order to clear areas north of Latakia,” he said, referring to the Syrian port city.
ISIL fighters have severely damaged Islam and Muslims, Erdogan said, but added there was no difference between “an organisation’s terror and state terror,” referring to the Assad regime.
Erdogan called Russia a “strategic partner” which he said required solidarity rather than threats. “We are saddened by this.”
“There is no reason for us to target Russia with which we have multi-faceted and very strong ties, without any border violation,” he noted, saying that disagreements with Moscow over the Syrian crisis and Ankara’s activating its military rules of engagement were two separate things.
“If the same incursion happens today, Turkey will be obliged to retaliate,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan also hit back at Putin’s charges that Turkey’s leaders were encouraging the Islamisation of the country.
“How dare you speak like that,” said Erdogan. “Ninety-nine percent of Turkey is Muslim.”
Reprinted with permission from Al Jazeera