KIEV, Ukraine — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday accused Russia of acting as a “terrorist organization” in Syria and vowed to deliver a robust response.
“If Russia continues behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee, we will deliver an extremely decisive response,” Davutoglu said through an official translator during a visit to Kiev.
“Unfortunately, barbaric attacks on civilians are continuing in Syria and these attacks are being waged by both Russia and terrorist groups,” Davutoglu said.
“Russia and other terrorist organizations — first and foremost, the Islamist State in Syria — are responsible for numerous crimes against humanity,” he added.
Tensions between Russia and Turkey have soared over Moscow’s backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia’s intense air campaign against what it claims are “terrorist” targets in its allied Middle Eastern state.
The two nations remain at odds ever since the Turkish air force shot down and killed a Russian pilot for allegedly violating its airspace on the Syrian border on November 24th.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Turkey shot down its plane to protect what he described as Turkish profiteering from the oil trade — a charge Turkey denies.
Turkey has long backed Assad’s ouster and like other Western nations accuses Russia of predominantly bombing Syrian rebel groups backed by Washington and its allies instead of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Assad’s forces have most recently used Russian air support to move ever closer to the rebel stronghold of Aleppo in northern Syria.
The resulting refugee flood toward Turkey has put renewed pressure on Ankara to open its border with Syria temporarily — a move Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has until now been unwilling to take.
Davutoglu further slammed the Syrian peace talks that were halted after only a few days this month in Geneva as “diplomatic theater” for which “the international community will ultimately bear responsibility.”