Turkey dismisses Macron claim that Ankara and Moscow ‘separated’ over Syria strikes


Turkey on Monday said French President Emmanuel Macron will not be able to break its partnership with Russia, after he argued the weekend's air strikes against the Syrian regime had driven a wedge between Ankara and Moscow.
"We can think differently but they (our relations with Russia) are not so weak that the French president can break them," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
"We have strong relations with Russia," Cavusoglu added. "But our relations with Russia are not an alternative to NATO relations or our allies."
There have been growing signs of Western discomfort over the alliance of Turkey -- a key NATO member since 1952 -- with Iran and Russia over Syria.
In an interview with French television, Macron suggested that the air strikes against Syria regime targets over the weekend had succeeded in engineering a split in the Russia-Turkey alliance.
"With these strikes and this intervention, we separated the Russians and the Turks on this issue... the Turks condemned the chemical strike and supported the operation that we conducted," the French president told BFM TV in an interview.
Russia and Iran are the key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and their military intervention in Syria is widely seen as helping his regime stay in power.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday had welcomed the strikes, which he described as "appropriate" and strongly condemned the alleged chemical attack.
But Cavusoglu said Macron was mistaken in his assessment and said that Ankara "expected statements befitting of a president" and should express himself "more seriously".
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag also hit back at Macron, saying our "Syria policy is not a policy of being on the same side or being opposed to another country."
Bozdag's comments follow tension between Ankara and Paris after Macron offered to mediate between Turkey and outlawed Kurdish militants, an offer furiously rejected by Erdogan.
Earlier this month, Erdogan hosted a summit on Syria with Iran and Russia in Ankara, the second such meeting after trilateral talks in November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Cavusoglu said that Macron had expressed interest in attending the Ankara summit and Erdogan then sounded out Moscow and Tehran over the idea.
But while Russian President Vladimir Putin was not against him coming, Iran preferred to meet with just the three presidents and leave a broader summit for later, he said.
© 2018 AFP