Russia: Turkey Turning into ‘Unfriendly Country’
TEHRAN (FNA)- Turkey’s latest statements and actions show that it is sliding towards the group of nations that Moscow considers unfriendly, Russian Senator Viktor Bondarev cautioned.
A member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, and chair of the body's defense and security committee, Bondarev also suggested in comments to the TASS news agency on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is caving to pressure from the West.
The senator cited Ankara’s stated support for Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and the subsequent decision to release from custody five commanders of the notorious Azov regiment as moves that have undermined Turkish neutrality.
“Certainly, national security and national interest have the priority. But even under serious Western pressure one should preserve their face, as Hungarian leader Viktor Orban demonstrated repeatedly,” the senator added.
Erdogan stated that Ukraine “deserves” to join NATO last Friday, as he was meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Ankara. On the next day, Zelensky announced that he was bringing back from his trip five leaders of the Azov regiment, which Moscow considers a terrorist organization.
The men were captured by Russia in the Donbass city of Mariupol last year and handed over to Turkey in a prisoner swap with Ukraine, which Ankara mediated. While rank-and-file Azov troops were transferred to their home nation, five senior officers were kept on Turkish soil. The agreement was that Ankara would host them until the conflict in Ukraine is over.
Bondarev accused the Turkish government of stabbing Russia in the back. He described the handover of Azov commanders as one in a series of “stupid and impulsive decisions” by Erdogan. The Turkish president may have been partially reacting to the deterioration of the Black Sea grain deal, the senator continued.
The scheme allows Kiev to export grain by sea under the aegis of Turkey and the UN. Moscow has complained that the UN never delivered on its promise to relieve Western sanctions on Russian grain exports, which was part of the terms. The deal will expire next Monday, unless Moscow agrees to extend it.
On Monday, the Turkish leader agreed to support Sweden’s application and forward the proposal to Ankara lawmakers for ratification, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after hosting a meeting between Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Monday in Vilnius.
“This is an historic step which makes all NATO allies stronger and safer,” he added.
Ankara had stood in the way of NATO’s latest expansion, using its veto power largely on concern that Sweden hadn’t done enough to help crack down on pro-Kurdish “terrorist organizations”. The 31-nation alliance requires unanimous approval for all new members.
Earlier on Monday, Erdogan suggested that Ankara would approve Sweden’s bid if Turkey were welcomed into the European Union.
Stoltenberg, who denied any linkage between the NATO expansion and Turkey’s EU accession, stated Erdogan and Kristersson worked closely together to address Ankara’s “legitimate security concerns".
He added, “As part of that process, Sweden has amended its constitution, changed its laws, significantly expanded its counterterrorism operation against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), and resumed its arms exports to Turkey.”
Erdogan pledged to forward Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkish lawmakers as soon as possible and help “ensure ratification”, Stoltenberg said. No clear timeline has been set for Stockholm’s accession to the bloc.
Sweden and neighboring Finland applied for NATO membership last year, abandoning their long traditions of military neutrality on fears raised by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Finland was officially admitted to the alliance in April, but Turkey blocked Sweden’s application after accusing the country of sheltering Kurdish terrorists.
US President Joe Biden has pressured Erdogan to drop his opposition to NATO’s expansion, suggesting that the issue must be resolved for Washington to approve the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.