Turkey’s Erdogan : Tension Easing in Russia-US Row on Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Russia-U.S. tensions over Syria appeared to be easing, after Moscow and Washington traded bitter accusations over potential American military action.
“It seems that with the latest developments, the atmosphere has eased somewhat,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul. “Our talks continue and will continue.”
The temperature had been raised by President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday warning Moscow that US missiles “will be coming” to Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack. However, the White House said on Thursday that Trump had not yet made a “final decision” on how to respond to the attack in Syria which reportedly killed dozens.
Moscow, meanwhile, warned the West against any intervention in Syria, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggesting it could “lead to new waves of migrants to Europe.”
Ankara appears keen not to take sides in one of worst outbreaks of tension since the Cold War between its NATO ally Washington and increasingly close partner Moscow. Instead, it has sought to warn both sides ease off the pressure, with Erdogan saying on Thursday that Syria should not become an arena for geopolitical “arm-wrestling.”
Erdogan has in the last days spoken by phone to Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said Friday he had told the leaders it was “not right” to raise tensions in the region.
The Turkish leader repeated Ankara’s vehement opposition to chemical weapons use after the alleged chemical attack in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma. Erdogan cautioned against ignoring the impact of conventional weapons use during the war, adding that they also killed women, children and older people. He said Turkey “wanted and wants Russia, coalition forces and especially the US to show sensitivity regarding this” issue.
The West has blamed the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad for the attack, while the Turkish foreign ministry has also said it strongly suspects the government was behind it. But Lavrov earlier on Friday said Moscow had “irrefutable” evidence the attack was staged with the help of a foreign secret service.
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had “proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organising of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta.” He said that Britain had told the White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas, to fake the suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma.