Yes, Erdoğan can

Published 27.11.2015 00:33

Russian fighter jets violated Turkish airspace on Oct. 3 and Oct. 4. Turkish authorities responded to both violations with stern reprimands. The Russian ambassador in Ankara was warned by the Foreign Ministry and reminded of Turkey's rules of engagement. On Nov. 24, when another Russian jet violated Turkish airspace, the pilots were warned 10times within five minutes to change course. But the jet neither complied with nor answered the warnings, and it was shot down. One of the aircrafts sent after being "sanctified" by Russian Orthodox Church was downed since it insistently violated Turkey's borders, which are sacred to the country, despite all warnings.

Russia has long sought to assert itself as the only dominant force in the region by sending its forces to fight in Georgia, Ukraine, Crimea and lately in Syria. It is no secret that Turkey insists on solving international problems through diplomatic means, even on critical subjects such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia since it tries to stand as a soft power in the region. Although Russia bombed 27 villages inhabited by Turkmen civilians in northern Syrians for days, Turkey limited its response to verbal criticisms of Russia's aggression at international forums and its own authorized organs. However, Putin's blustering policy would come to a dead end sooner or later and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was just the one to bring it to end.

In a speech following the incident, President Erdoğan said Ankara was doing its best to reconcile with Moscow and Turkey did not bear enmity toward Russia but it had to protect its borders. Moreover, he expressed that Russia's aggressive bombing campaign on Bayırbucak Turkmens, who reside 280 kilometers away from the nearest area controlled by DAESH and actually have fought DAESH when necessary, was unacceptable. Unless Putin heeds Turkey's latest warning, an even tenser period awaits Russia-Turkey relations.

Putin resorted to sentimental and unjust expressions arguing that Russia was stabbed in the back and put forward baseless and unrealistic claims that Turkey obtains oil from DAESH and the Russian jet was downed by DAESH, contentions which are not consistent with the internationally-agreed upon facts regarding the event. Some square Putin's defensiveness as an attempt to further escalate tensions and save face after being embarrassed by Turkey.

However, the facts are self-explanatory. Russia bombs civilians and Syrian opponents more than it targets DAESH militants in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) monitor group stated in a Nov. 20 report that at least 403 civilians, including more than 160 women and children, have been killed due to Russian airstrikes. This strategy only favors Assad and reinforces DAESHDAESH.

In a recent statement, U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned Russia's nefarious aims obstructing a political transition in Syria. He criticized Russia by stating that the problem with Russia's operations is its close proximity to the Turkish border and the fact that it targets moderate opponents supported by Turkey along with many other countries. On the following day, U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted four persons and six companies, including some Russian ones, for providing financial support for the Assad regime and buying oil from DAESH.

With brute force no longer an option, Russia has sought other ways to coerce Turkey into backing down such as attempting to pass legislation recognizing the so-called Armenian genocide and using the remarks of Fuatavni, an Internet troll, as a source. However, Turkey is ready to de-escalate as long as it is guaranteed that the country's airspace would not be violated again. Russia must carefully interpret this since Turkey is not just another country and Erdoğan is not an ordinary leader.

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