Turkey’s Davutoglu accuses Russia of wanting ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Syria

Istanbul, Dec 10 (IANS) Turkey’s prime minister has accused Russia of attempting “ethnic cleansing” with its air strikes in northern Syria.

Ahmet Davutoglu said Russia’s campaign targeted Turkmen and Sunni communities around the Latakia region, BBC reported.

Relations between Ankara and Moscow have plummeted since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on the Syrian border.

President Vladimir Putin has asked Britain specialists to help analyse the flight recorder in a phone conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron, the Kremlin said.

Turkey insists that its F-16 fighters shot down the Russian Su-24 on 24 November because the bomber trespassed into its airspace. Russia denies this.

“Russia is trying to make ethnic cleansing in the northern Latakia (region) to force (out) all Turkmen and Sunni populations who do not have good relations with the (Syrian) regime,” Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul on Wednesday.

He said Russian air strikes were “strengthening” the Islamic state group in Syria.

Russia says its bombers were attacking IS and other jihadist groups in Syria, helping the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Western analysts and Syrian rebel sources said most of the Russian bombing has targeted anti-Assad groups who were not jihadists.

Appearing on television with the orange metal box from the Su-24, President Putin said the recorder it contained would help prove the Russian jet’s flight path and position.

“Whatever we learn won’t change our attitude to what the Turkish authorities did,” he said.

“We used to treat Turkey not only as our friend but also as an ally in the fight against terrorism. Nobody expected this low, treacherous stab in the back.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Kremlin said Putin discussed the conflict in Syria with Cameron.

It said the two leaders talked of ways to cooperate in the fight against IS militants and other terrorist groups.

Britain joined the US-led air strikes against IS in Syria last week.

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