MOSCOW: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called Thursday for a broad international front against terrorism and accused Turkey of trading oil with the Islamic State group.
Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address televised live, Putin called for an end to what he called double standards that hampered uniting global efforts in fighting terrorism. Without naming the United States, he accused Washington for turning Iraq, Syria and Libya into a “zone of chaos and anarchy threatening the entire world” by supporting change of regimes in those countries.
Putin didn’t address a peace process in Syria in his Thursday’s speech, focusing on the need to pool global efforts in the fight against terrorism following the attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt. The IS has claimed responsibility for both.
“We must leave all arguments and disagreements behind and make one powerful fist, a single anti-terror front, which would work on the basis of international law under the aegis of the United Nations,” he said, addressing lawmakers and top officials who gathered in an ornate Kremlin hall. “That means no shelter to bandits, no double standards, no contacts whatsoever with any terrorist organizations, no attempts to use them for some other goals, no criminal, bloody business with terrorists.”
Putin specifically targeted Turkey, accusing it of “allowing terrorists to earn money by selling oil stolen from Syria.” ”For that money the bandits are recruiting mercenaries, buying weapons and staging cruel terror attacks aimed against our citizens, as well as citizens of France, Lebanon, Mali and other countries,” he said.
He denounced Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet at the border with Syria as a “treacherous war crime.”
“Allah must have punished Turkey’s ruling clique by depriving it of sense and reason,” Putin said.
Turkey said the plane violated its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings, while Russia has insisted that the aircraft stayed in Syria’s airspace. The shoot-down, the first time a NATO country downed a Russian plane in more than half a century, has triggered a bitter spat between the two nations, which had developed robust economic ties in the past.
Moscow deployed long-range air defense missile systems to its base in Syria and slammed an array of economic sanctions on Turkey, including a ban on imports of fruit and vegetables and the sales of tour packages.
“We will remind them not just once about what they have done, and they will feel sorry about it more than once,” he said without spelling out what other actions Russia may take.
“But if anyone thinks that after committing the treacherous war crime, the killing of our people, they will get away with (the ban on imports) of tomatoes or some restrictions on construction and other industries, they are deeply mistaken.”
The Turkish and Russian foreign ministers were scheduled to meet on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Cooperation meeting in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Thursday, the first meeting between senior Turkish officials since the plane’s downing.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hotly denied that his country was involved in oil trade with the IS, and has pledged to step down if Moscow proves its accusations. The Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday released an array of satellite and aerial images which it said show hundreds of oil trucks streaming across the border. The ministry insisted that the images definitively prove Turkey’s massive oil trade with the IS.
Top Defense Ministry officials also accused Erdogan and his family of personally benefiting from the oil trade with the IS, although they didn’t provide any evidence to back the claim.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu hit back at the Russian accusations Thursday, saying the claims were reminiscent of “lies” produced by the “Cold War-era Soviet propaganda machine.”
“During the Cold War era there was a Soviet propaganda machine. Every day it produces a variety of lies,” Davutoglu said. “Some characteristics of the Soviet era are emerging one by one. No one believes the lies of the Soviet propaganda machine.”
Davutoglu also renewed an accusation that Russian operations in Syria were hampering efforts to clear Turkey’s border of IS militants.
Moscow has said that its warplanes have been targeting terrorist groups near Syria’s border with Turkey, while Ankara has said the Russian raids have been aimed at moderate militant groups made of ethnic Turks who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. The militants shot and killed the downed plane’s pilot while he was descending on parachute and also killed a Russian marine who was involved in rescuing the plane’s co-pilot.
Following Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a climate summit in Paris, Putin said they have a shared understanding on how to move toward a political settlement in Syria and discussed efforts to compile a list of extremist groups and another one of members of legitimate political opposition.
Putin said in his speech that Russia’s air campaign in Syria that started on Sept. 30 is intended to fend off a terror threat to Russia posed by militant groups in Syria that include Russian residents.
He said the military action has proven the capability of Russia’s modernized military.
“Modern Russian weapons have worked efficiently, and the priceless experience of its use in combat will be analyzed to help further improve our weapons,” he said.