In a sign of escalating tensions, Russia and Turkey have begun accusing each other of supporting “terrorist” organizations in Syria.
“Many civilians have been killed or wounded in these raids, and infrastructure and residential buildings have been damaged,” the Russians alleged.
Additionally, Russia claimed that Turkey “continued to facilitate the illegal crossing of Jihadists and armed mercenaries into Syria to reinforce the seriously battered Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and other terrorist groups.” The statement also said injured jihadi fighters are “allowed to enter Turkey for rehabilitation and subsequent regrouping.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry laid its terrorism allegations on thick in the concluding paragraphs, backing Syrian government demands that the United Nations halt “continued Turkish provocations” and that “countries backing terrorism, including Turkey, be compelled to comply with anti-terrorism resolutions and cease without delay all their financial assistance to terrorists.”
The Russians declared Turkey’s actions constituted “direct support for international terrorism,” in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and said Turkey’s policies were “threatening peace and security in the Middle East and beyond it.”
Ominously, the Russians declared support for their clients in Syria to “respond to Turkey’s aggression.”
Also on Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused Russia of supporting terrorism, and indeed acting like a terrorist organization itself, and he did it while standing on Russian soil.
“If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” Davutoglu said during a visit to Kiev, as reported by the Times of Israel.
“Unfortunately, barbaric attacks on civilians are continuing in Syria and these attacks are being waged by both Russia and terrorist groups,” Davutoglu continued. “Russia and other terrorist organizations – first and foremost, the Islamic State in Syria – are responsible for numerous crimes against humanity.”
Davutoglu also condemned the recent Syrian peace talks in Geneva as mere “diplomatic theater,” for which “the international community will ultimately bear responsibility,” according to the Times of Israel.
The United States finds itself in a difficult position as tensions between Turkey and Russia increase. Today’s Zaman faults Turkey for “dragging the country to such a point that today, it is at odds with not only Russia, but its close ally the U.S. as well.”
This is particularly uncomfortable in the case of the Syrian Kurds, vital U.S. allies against the Islamic State who Turkey has named “terrorists” for their links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey. The Obama administration is quietly standing behind the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, while Turkey loudly denounces them as terrorists and hits them with artillery fire. Turkey also remains adamant that dictator Bashar Assad must be removed from power in Syria, while the administration grows increasingly resigned to his survival.
Davutoglu went so far as to call the Kurdish militia “Russia’s instrument in Syria” on Monday, threatening to destroy the Menagh air base near Aleppo unless Kurdish forces withdrew from the area, according to the Financial Times.
On the other hand, speaking from the Munich Security Conference, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) declared Russian President Vladimir Putin “is not interested in being our partner.”
“He wants to re-establish Russia as a major power in the Middle East,” McCain continued, as reported by CNN. “He wants to use Syria as a live-fire exercise for Russia’s modernizing military, he wants to turn Latakia province into a military outpost from which to harden and enforce a Russian sphere of influence – a new Kaliningrad, or Crimea – and he wants to exacerbate the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the trans-Atlantic alliance and undermine the European project.”
McCain charged that Russia has “indiscriminately bombed civilians and moderate opposition groups for months with impunity.” Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that Russian airstrikes had largely been directed against “legitimate opposition groups.”
CNN adds an accusation from Syrian opposition leader Riad Hijab that there have been “58 clear massacres committed by the Russian military against Syrian civilians alone in the last 10 days.”