Turkey blamed the murder of Russia’s ambassador to the country on a US-based a cleric on Tuesday, as both Ankara and Moscow vowed the killing would not undermine a fragile alliance between them.
Turkey’s foreign minister on Tuesday told John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, that Ankara and Moscow believe followers of Fethullah Gulen were behind the killing of Andrei Karlov on Monday.
“Turkey and Russia know that behind the attack… there is FETO,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Mr Kerry, referring to Turkey’s acronym for Mr Gulen’s organisation, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The Turkish government has previously accused Mr Gulen, a critic of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of orchestrating the failed military coup that rocked the country in July. Mr Gulen denies the accusation.
Earlier officials in Moscow and Ankara blamed the attack on “terrorists” seeking to sabotage bilateral relations and damage efforts to make peace in Syria.
“It benefits those who want to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey” and undermine joint efforts to find a settlement in Syria, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, said in a speech in Istanbul that he and Mr Putin agreed in a telephone call after the murder that “our expanding areas of cooperation with Russia, particularly on Syria, will not be hampered by this attack”.
Russia and Turkey have clashed repeatedly over the war in Syria, where they support opposing sides, but in recent weeks they have worked closely on arranging evacuations from rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
Andrey Karlov, 62, was shot in the back at least eight times as he delivered a speech at the opening of an exhibition sponsored by the Russian embassy on Monday evening.
His attacker, a 22-year old policeman called Melvut Mert Altintas, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “remember Aleppo” as he opened fire.
Altintas was shot dead by police fifteen minutes later.
No group has claimed responsibility for Karlov’s murder. However, some Turkish officials and pro-government media have laid the blame on Mr Gulen, an anti-Erdogan cleric based in the United States.
Melih Gokcek, the mayor of Ankara, speculated on Twitter that the gunman may be linked to a group led by Fethullah Gulen, who Mr Erdogan accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in July.
Mr Erdogan said: “We have started to work out the links,” but did not elaborate. Mr Gulen, who denies involvement in the July coup attempt, issued a statement condemning the killing as a “heinous crime.”
Experts cast doubt on the link to Mr Gulen, saying it was more likely the gunman was acting out of anger at Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria.
The killing comes at a time of deep anger among religious and socially conservative grassroots supporters of Mr Erdogan’s Law and Justice Party over the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
While the government has largely refrained from criticising Moscow’s actions in Aleppo, protesters had gathered on a near daily basis outside Russian diplomatic missions in Istanbul and Ankara in the week preceding the attack.
Eighteen officials from Russia’s foreign ministry and intelligence agencies landed in Ankara early on Tuesday morning after Mr Putin and Mr Erdogan agreed on a joint investigation into the murder.
The Russians joined a Turkish police team who have so far detained seven people in connection with the killing.
Suspects currently in custody include Altintas’ parents, sister and three other relatives from his home town in Aydir province.
In Ankara, police arrested the policeman’s flatmate.
Further details emerged about the murder on Tuesday, including that the killer used his police ID to bypass metal detectors at the entrance to gallery where the killing took place, it has been reported.
Altintas was challenged by security guards at Ankara’s Contemporary Arts Centre when he refused to pass through the metal detector but was waved through after he produced his police identity card, Hurriyet reported.
Karlov’s body was flown back to Russia with ceremonial honours on Tuesday. His wife Marina, who held two red carnations, wept as her husband’s flag-draped coffin was carried by a Turkish honour guard to a Russian aircraft at Ankara airport on Tuesday afternoon.
Tugrul Turkes, a deputy prime minister of Turkey, said at the ceremony that Karlov had “become the eternal symbol of Turkish-Russian friendship.”
Turkish authorities separately promised to rename the road where the Russian embassy is in Ankara “Karlov street.”
One thought on “Turkey claims followers of US-exiled cleric killed Russian ambassador”
“No group has claimed responsibility for Karlov’s murder. However, some Turkish officials and pro-government media have laid the blame on Mr Gulen, an anti-Erdogan cleric based in the United States.”
Now it’s OUR fault, instead of Russia’s.
“Andrey Karlov, 62, was shot in the back at least eight times as he delivered a speech at the opening of an exhibition sponsored by the Russian embassy on Monday evening.”
So we’ve been told, at any rate.