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Moscow, Ankara Pledge Unity After Envoy Assassination

  • VOA Staff

A Turkish forces honour guard stands by the Russia flag-draped coffin of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated Monday, during a ceremony at the airport in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Dec, 20, 2016.

In Turkey, investigations are continuing into Monday's assassination of the Russian ambassador. Turkey’s political leaders have pledged the killing will not undermine relations with Russia, with both sides committed to cooperating over the Syrian civil war.

A ceremony was held at Ankara’s airport for assassinated Russian ambassador Andrey Karlov, as his body was repatriated to Russia. The ambassador was shot dead by an off-duty Turkish policeman at an art exhibition.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Tuesday in Istanbul that bilateral relations will not be derailed.

Yildirim said strong relations will continue; no one has the strength to destroy the relationship between the two countries, and they will continue to carry out every kind of effort to overcome instability in the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is committed to finding those responsible and that his security forces will work closely with their Russian counterparts. Ankara has agreed to cooperate with a team of 18 Russian investigators who arrived Tuesday.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during the opening ceremony of Eurasia Tunnel in Istanbul, Tuesday, Dec, 20, 2016. Erdogan said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he spoke by phone Monday night, were "in agreement that this was an open provocation'', referring to the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, in Ankara Monday.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he speaks during the opening ceremony of Eurasia Tunnel in Istanbul, Tuesday, Dec, 20, 2016. Erdogan said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he spoke by phone Monday night, were "in agreement that this was an open provocation'', referring to the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, in Ankara Monday.


Police have detained seven people, most of whom are relatives of the 22-year-old gunman who was killed by security forces shortly after he fatally shot the ambassador.

Turkish security forces have said they are investigating whether the killer was connected to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. Gulen and his followers are blamed by Ankara for July’s failed coup.

Political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor website says the assassination will not undermine bilateral relations, for now.

“Russia has being giving Turkey the benefit of the doubt because of the broader interests enveloping the region regarding Syria and Iraq," Idiz ssaid. "As you see now, Russia has brought Turkey to its side. It is trying to capitalize on the deepening division between Turkey and the West and it sees an advantage in this and it would not want to endanger [that] at this moment in time.”

While Ankara and Moscow are backing rival sides in the Syrian civil war, they have cooperated this month in securing the evacuation of refugees from Aleppo. Erdogan said Tuesday that he has an understanding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria.

Columnist Idiz warns while both sides are declaring a unified approach, the assassination is likely to have far-reaching consequences.

“There is no doubt this does casts a shadow over the reconciliation process. Russia will remain diplomatic, but it will not forget or overlook what has happened by any means, as it cannot, as any power cannot, because the murder of an ambassador has in the past led to wars,” said Idiz.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offer flowers in memory of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, who was in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 20, 2016.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu offer flowers in memory of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, who was in Ankara, Turkey, Dec. 20, 2016.

Analysts say for now, Turkey and Russia recognize they need to cooperate on working toward a resolution of the Syrian civil war. The two countries' foreign ministers, along with Iran’s, met Tuesday in Moscow to discuss Syria and are expected to cooperate again in a meeting planned for later this month in Kazakhstan.

The immediate aftermath of the Dec. 19, 2016, shooting of Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, is shown in this composite photo.
The immediate aftermath of the Dec. 19, 2016, shooting of Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, is shown in this composite photo.

Assassin shouted support for Syria

Ambassador Karlov was making a speech at the opening of an art exhibition when the gunman shot him in the back.

The killer shouted "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria! As long as our lands aren't safe, you will not be safe!" at the scene, one witness told VOA. Security officers eventually shot the gunman dead.

Three other people were wounded.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek identified the assassin as 22-year-old police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the killing as an act of terrorism.

"There is no doubt that the committed crime is a provocation aimed at ruining Russian-Turkish relations and the peace process in Syria, which is moving forward with the help of Russia, Turkey and Iran," Putin said Monday. "The answer is to strengthen the counter-terrorism efforts and the criminals will feel that soon."

Turkish President Erdogan also called the killing a "provocation" and said "Turkey and Russia have the will not to be deceived."

Turkey-Russia relations improving

Ties between Russia and Turkey have been slowly improving since Turkish jets shot down a Russian bomber that strayed into its airspace from Syria last year.

Russian and Turkish officials have been working together to resolve the refugee crisis in Aleppo, caused, in part, by Russian air strikes on Syrian rebels.

Also Monday, a man was arrested after firing shots near the entrance to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. A State Department official said no one was hurt and thanked Turkish authorities for their "prompt response."

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