Russia And Turkey Trade Jabs Over Syria Invasion Accusation

Russ Read | Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

Russia’s defense ministry claims to have proof Turkey is preparing to engage in an invasion of Syria, while Syria claims Moscow is attempting to distract from its own actions.

Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov offered few details as to what, if any, proof Russia has to back up its claim. If Russia’s claim is true, however, it would prove to be a major policy change from a Turkish government that has historically been apprehensive in getting overly involved in the Syrian conflict.

“The Russian Defense Ministry registers a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria,” said Konashenkov in a statement Thursday. “the Russian Defense Ministry regards these actions of the Turkish party as a dangerous precedent and an attempt to hide the illegal military activity near the Syrian border.”

Kolashenkov pointed to Turkey’s refusal to allow an observation of Turkish areas adjacent to Syria as a questionable action that adds to Russia’s suspicion. Turkey’s foreign ministry denied the Russian claim, saying the observation flight was denied due to a failure to agree on a mission plan. The Treaty on Open Skies allows for signatories to conduct unarmed observation flights over one another’s territory under certain conditions.

Turkish officials responded by claiming Russia was simply trying to distract from its “crimes” in Syria and the “siege of starvation” it is participating in against the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Turkish-Russian relations have been at an all-time low since Turkey shot down a Russian military jet flying over its territory in November of last year. The downing of the plane sparked an ongoing series of moves between Russia and Turkey that have included a Turkish blockade of Russian shipping and Russian accusations that Turkey was purchasing oil from Islamic State.

Russia’s claim comes the same day Saudi Arabia announced it was prepared to commit ground troops to the fight against ISIS, should the U.S.-led task force approve. (RELATED: Saudi Arabia To Send Troops To Fight ISIS In Syria)

Syrian President Bashar Assad is a close Russian ally and has received a significant amount of direct military support from the Kremlin since last year. Syrian opposition officials from the High Negotiations Council pointed to an increase in Russian bombings in Syria as a key reason for the suspension of peace talks yesterday. (RELATED: Syrian Peace Talks Implode As Key Rebel Stronghold Is Poised To Fall)

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