Ankara hits back over Macron comments on Russia-Turkey split

Istanbul: Turkey on Monday hit back at French President Emmanuel Macron over his comments that the weekend’s air strikes against the Syrian regime had driven a wedge between Ankara and its increasingly close ally Moscow.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag insisted that Turkish policy on Syria was independent of other nations, as signs grow of Western discomfort over Ankara’s alliance with Iran and Russia on Syria.

“Turkey’s Syria policy is not a policy of being on the same side or being opposed to another country,” Bozdag told reporters in Qatar in response to a journalist’s question about Macron’s remarks.

“Whoever defends what is right, we are on their side,” he added in televised comments.

France, the United States and Britain launched strikes against regime targets on Saturday, following an alleged chemical attack blamed by the West on the Damascus regime that reportedly killed dozens.

“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.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday welcomed the strikes, which he described as “appropriate” and strongly condemned the alleged chemical attack.

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.

But Bozdag insisted Turkey’s longstanding opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had not changed.

“Until now, has the policy put forward by Turkey changed? No,” Bozdag said, adding that Turkey “has different policies to Iran and Russia.”

While Turkey has repeatedly called for Assad’s ouster, it has been working closely with regime allies Tehran and Moscow in the Astana peace process, albeit with only moderate success.

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.

“Turkey is neither chasing the same goals as Iran, Russia nor is it a country chasing the same objectives as the US,” Bozdag said.

Agence France-Presse