Turkey and the Syrian crisis: Consistently inconsistent 0

Turkey says its views are concurrent with those of Russia regarding the need for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said Ankara and Moscow were of similar opinions concerning the need for a ceasefire in Syria and the provision of humanitarian aid to the civilians affected by the conflict there.

The comments come even as Turkey and Russia have been supporting opposing sides in the conflict in Syria. While Russia has stressed the need to support the legitimate Syrian government, Turkey has been offering support to the anti-Damascus militants.

Despite that difference, Turkey has recently been surprisingly gravitating toward Russia. A standoff in November last year plunged the two countries’ relations into turmoil. Back then, the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet as it was conducting operations over Syria. One of the two pilots of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24M was killed by anti-Damascus militants on the ground after parachuting out of the targeted jet.

Following a failed coup in Turkey in July this year, Turkish officials, who had previously defended the downing of the Russian jet, distanced themselves from the incident, saying that the bomber aircraft had been targeted by military personnel who later took part in the putsch attempt against Ankara.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a press conference in Konstantinovsky Palace outside Saint Petersburg, Russia, August 9, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Most recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan traveled to Russia, where he discussed the Syrian conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his Wednesday’s remarks, Cavusoglu said a Turkish delegation, including Foreign Ministry, military, and defense officials, will travel to Russia for follow-up talks on the same day.

Observers also speculate that the Turkish overtures to Russia are coming at a time when Ankara is finding itself increasingly at odds with Western countries in the wake of the coup.

Western countries, particularly those of the European Union (EU), say Turkey is being too heavy-handed in its crackdown on putschists. Cavusoglu seemed to dismiss such speculation on Wednesday, however, saying his country’s rapprochement with Russia was not meant as a message to the West.

He did say, though, that support for EU membership had fallen in Turkey because of what he said was the bloc’s sympathetic attitude toward those who carried out the coup attempt. The EU is making serious mistakes in its response to the coup, the Turkish minister said, adding that if the West “loses” Turkey, it will be because of its own mistakes, not Ankara’s good ties with Russia, China or the Islamic world.