Saturday 17 March 2018

Russia accuses Turkey of funding terror with oil deals

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Roland Oliphant in Moscow

Russian military chiefs have publicly accused the Turkish government of funnelling millions of dollars in illicit oil revenues to Isil terrorists in Syria and Iraq, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries.

Russia's top generals yesterday accused Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, and his family of personal involvement in a multi-million dollar oil-smuggling operation that is funding terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

"Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq. According to information we've received, the senior political leadership of the country - President Erdogan and his family - are involved in this criminal business," Anatoly Antonov, a deputy defence minister, told reporters and several dozen foreign military attaches summoned at short notice to the army's high-tech national defence command centre in Moscow.

"In the West, no one has asked questions about the fact that the Turkish president's son heads one of the biggest energy companies, or that his son has been appointed energy minister. What a marvellous family business!" he added.

Mr Erdogan reacted with fury to the claims, describing them as "slander" and saying that Turkey had not lost its moral compass to such a degree that it would buy oil from Isil.

Speaking at a university in Doha, the capital of Qatar, he reiterated an earlier promise to resign if the accusations turned out to be true.

Mr Antonov and three senior Russian generals who hosted yesterday's briefing did not say what evidence they had specially linking Mr Erdogan and his family to illegal oil smuggling.

Instead they presented a series of satellite photos and drone surveillance footage showing what they said were oil tankers ferrying "industrial quantities" of oil pumped from Isil-controlled fields into neighbouring Turkey.

They said they had identified three main routes for oil from Syria and Iraq into Turkey, most of which they claimed comes from fields near Dier ez-Zor in eastern Syria. The ministry claims that oil from that area crosses into eastern Turkey via the border city of Al-Quamishli before being processed at the Batman refinery in eastern Turkey.

A second, western route sees tankers pass through Aleppo, before passing to the Turkish coastal cities of Dörtyol and Iskenderun, the defence ministry claimed. They also claimed Isil smuggles oil into Turkey from northern Iraq.

Russia and Turkey have been locked in a diplomatic confrontation since a Turkish jet fighter shot down a Russian bomber aircraft on the Syrian-Turkish border on November 24.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Turkey had shot down the aircraft to protect oil and weapons smuggling arrangements with terror groups.

Irish Independent

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