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Russian FM calls off forthcoming visit to Turkey

24 November 2015 22:35



The Russian foreign minister has canceled his forthcoming visit to Turkey planned for November 25 in the wake of Ankara’s downing of a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border.

“The decision has been taken to cancel the meeting that was planned for tomorrow in Istanbul between the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey,” Sergei Lavrov said in televised comments from Russia’s southwestern city of Sochi on Tuesday.

Lavrov’s remarks came hours after Turkey shot down the Russian warplane close to the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying it had repeatedly violated its airspace.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the jet had been attacked inside Syria and warned of “serious consequences” for the “stab in the back.”

Meanwhile, Rostourism, the Russian state tourism agency, recommended suspending the selling of tour packages to Turkey, the Russian RIA news agency reported.

A still image taken from a video shows a war plane crashing in flames in a mountainous area in northern Syria after it was shot down by Turkish fighter jets near the Turkish-Syrian border, November 24, 2015. ©Reuters

Elsewhere in his comments, Lavrov further advised Russian citizens not to travel to Turkey, arguing that the threat of terrorism in the Middle Eastern country was similar to the one seen in Egypt.

“The critical mass of terrorist incidents on Turkish soil, according to our estimates, is no less of a threat than in Egypt. For this reason of course we do not recommend that our citizens travel to Turkey for tourism or any other reason,” the top Russian diplomat said.

On October 31, an Airbus A321, run by Russia’s Kogalymavia airline, was brought down by a bomb attack in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all the 224 people – mostly Russians – on board. An affiliate of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in Egypt claimed responsibility for the incident.

The developments come as Moscow is involved in an aerial military campaign against Takfiri terrorists in Syria, which started on September 30 upon a request by the government in Damascus.

The Daesh militants, who have seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, have been carrying out horrific acts of violence, such as public decapitations and crucifixions, against all communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians in areas they have overrun.

Syrian FM’s visit to Russia

In a relevant development on Tuesday, Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad emphasized that Russia and Iran are working in the best interests of the Syrian people, saying Tehran and Moscow were doing their best “to bring the West in to understand what’s going on in Syria but the West doesn’t have the Syrian people as its top priority.”

Buthaina Shaaban, an adviser to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad ©AFP

Shaaban also announced that Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem will meet with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Wednesday.

“We will have an exchange of views on the [Austrian capital city of] Vienna meeting and the current situation,” said Shaaban, referring to two rounds of international talks on the crisis in Syria that were held in Vienna on October 30 and November 14.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The crisis has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people so far and displaced millions of others.

While some countries, such as the US and its regional allies, want the removal of the Syrian leader as part of a solution to the crisis in the Arab country, others, including Iran and Russia, say only the Syrian nation can have a say on the matter.

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