Muallem, Lavrov Hold Joint Press Conference on Turkish ‘Aggression’

Foreign ministers condemn Turkey for the recent downing of a Russian jet and Ankara's support for terrorism

Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem affirmed that Turkey’s downing of the Russian warplane last Tuesday was an “act of aggression” that encroaches on Syria’s sovereignty as the plane was shot down in Syrian airspace, adding that Turkey has failed to provide any clear evidence regarding the incident.

In a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, Muallem stressed that Turkey is supporting terrorist organizations with weapons, facilitating their movements through the Turkish territory and securing their fighters’ families.

The minister pointed out that the Russian Air Force, in cooperation with the Syrian army, had put an end to the aspirations of Erdogan in the region, prompting Turkey to mount the act of aggression.

Muallem said that Turkey continues to provide cover for Islamic State (ISIS) oil smuggling operations from Syria and Iraq into Turkey before heading to ports abroad.

The foreign minister challenged US Secretary of State John Kerry to provide evidence that the Syrian government is involved in oil deals with ISIS. “After all, it is not his first lie,” Muallem mocked.

Muallem hailed the Russian leadership’s stance towards Syria, specifically efforts exerted by Lavrov in promoting the political process in Vienna, noting that these positions reflect the depth of the strategic alliance between the two countries, describing his talks with minister Lavrov as “frank and constructive”.

Commenting on statements by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Muallem told journalists that Syria has always pointed to Europe’s incorrect handling of the crisis in Syria, repeatedly warning that terrorism will backfire on those who support it and regretting that Britain and France are leading the European efforts against Syria’s legitimate government.

Fabius’ overtures and willingness to cooperate with the Syrian army, if proven genuine, would be welcome, Muallem added, but said a drastic change is need in the approach to the Syrian crisis.

In turn, Lavrov confirmed that Russia will offer all it can to help Syria in combating terrorism, preserving its national unity, rebuilding it and providing Syria with effective support on the international level.

Lavrov issued a blistering criticism against the statements of some of Syria’s neighboring countries in which they faked commitment to UN counter-terrorism resolutions while “playing their own games” by forging alliances with terrorists, describing their conduct as “very impudent.”

He questioned Turkey’s interest in eliminating terrorism and restoring security and stability in Syria, voicing Russia’s full readiness to cooperate with all countries who wish to fight terrorism which are currently members of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition that has so far “yielded no tangible results.”

The Russian FM stressed the importance of preparing a list of terrorist organizations which ought to be kept away from any political process and excluded from any potential ceasefire agreement. If this does not happen, Lavrov added, the Vienna meeting will not bear fruit.

Lavrov pointed out the need to hold Syrian-Syrian dialogue, bringing together the Syrian government and part of the opposition, adding that all the parties concerned should contribute to supporting a peaceful political process and exerting their efforts to launch dialogue.

“The essence of the Vienna talks stipulates that the Syrians should determine the future of their country without outside interference,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia opposes Western attempts to deliver candidates for Syria’s leadership.

Commenting on the downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber by the Turkish air forces, Lavrov speculated whether Turkey is really interested in combating terrorism in Syria in the efforts to achieve stability and security.

Lavrov criticized Turkey’s statements concerning the downing of the Russian aircraft, particularly claims that the Turkish air force did not recognize the jet to be Russian, only to contradict this later by stating that Turkey would have responded in the same way had any other jet violated its airspace.

Pointing to stepped-up procedures against Turkey, Lavrov said Russia has decided to freeze the visa waiver system with Turkey in fear of “real, not hypothetical threats”.

Lavrov said eliminating ISIS is a necessity and Syria’s neighboring countries have a special responsibility in this, confirming that combating terrorism in the Middle East requires abandoning double standard policies.

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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