Turkey challenges Russia over IS oil trade claim

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Source: BBC

Turkey has challenged Russia to prove its claim that Ankara shot down a Russian plane in order to protect its oil trade with Islamic State (IS).

“If you allege something you should prove it,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

He was responding to a statement by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Russia says Turkey downed the jet as it was flying over Syria.

Turkey says the plane entered its airspace and was warned to leave.

One Russian pilot was killed and the other rescued after Russia’s Su-24 bomber was shot down by a Turkish F-16 fighter on the Syrian border on 24 November.

Russia has insisted the plane did not cross the border and that it gave advance notice of the flight path to the US, Turkey’s ally.

But the US has supported Turkey’s version of events. On Monday state department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said that “evidence from Turkey and our own sources indicates that Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace”,

She added that Russia had not informed the US or its coalition of its air operation. “We do not co-ordinate operations with the Russian Federation,” she said.

‘Emotional statements’

“You should put your documents on the table if you have any. Let’s see the documents,” Mr Erdogan said.

“We are acting with patience. It is not positive for the two countries which have reached a position which could be regarded as a strategic partnership to make emotional statements.”

President Erdogan also vowed to step down if the allegation that Turkey was buying oil from IS proved true, suggesting that President Putin should do the same if he was wrong.

Russia is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes have targeted rebel groups, including IS.

Turkey strongly opposes Mr Assad and has been accused of turning a blind eye to jihadist fighters crossing from its territory into Syria.

Burning Russian plane. Photo: 24 November 2015Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe Russian Su-24 bomber crashed into a mountainside after being hit by a missile from a Turkish F-16 fighter

Until a few months ago, Turkey was reluctant to play an active role in the coalition against IS. However, in August it allowed the US-led coalition to begin using its airbase at Incirlik.

Russia has imposed sanctions on Turkey over the downing of the plane, including restrictions on imports of Turkish food and an end to visa-free travel.

IS earns much of its money from illegal oil fields it controls in north-eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Some of the oil is sold to the Assad regime and some is smuggled through middlemen to Turkey. However, the Turkish government has consistently denied being involved in the trade.

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