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Turkish government warns Putin: Crimea is not yours

Russia President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish government warns Putin: Crimea is not yours
14 February 2017 -The Turkish leadership has once again confirmed that it will not recognize Crimea as part of Russia. Harsh criticism for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea coincided with the Russian-Turkish exacerbation in Syria. Ankara uses the “Crimean issue” to put diplomatic pressure on Moscow. As a consequence, the proteges of the Kremlin on the peninsula should not rely on long-term economic ties with Turkish businesses, which could then become the basis for a political agreement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Kyiv that his country does not recognize the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian peninsula.

“Türkiye fully supports the territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty and political unity of Ukraine. We constantly emphasize this at the international level, and during bilateral meetings. And I especially want to emphasize once again that we do not in any way recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea,” said the Minister.

Mevlut Cavusoglu explained that one of Türkiye’s main priorities is protecting the identity of Crimean Tatars from aggression. Judging by the context, he was clearly addressing the aggression from the Russian side.

The statement of the Turkish minister provoked undisguised irritation in the Crimean “Council of Ministers.” The head of “state committee” on Ethnic Relations Zaur Smirnov angrily stated that the Crimea “does not need the mediation of Kyiv” in relations with Ankara. The official assured that the indigenous people have been “integrated” into Russian society and that they were given “all the conditions” for the improvement and development of their national culture. Smirnov remained silent about fabricated criminal cases as well as the persecution against Muslims and political activists in Crimea by the Russian puppet regime of Aksyonov.

Russian propagandists posted a comment by the secretary of one of the chapters of the so-called “Turkish Tatar Societies Federation” Unver Selya , known for his pro-Russian stance. Selya called the talks between the authorities in Ukraine and Cavusoglu “inappropriate” and harmful to Russian-Turkish relations. Selya futher added that Turkish officials are to discuss the case of Crimean Tatars only with representatives of Russia. Judging by the fact that hysteria gradually unwound, Russian state media, it can be assumed that the leadership of the Crimean “Council of ministers” had a hand in this.

The topic of Crimea was relevant to the Turkish authorities for a reason. Just a couple of days before Cavusoglu’s visit to Kyiv, Russian aircraft attacked the Turkish positions at El-Bab in Syria. In result, several soldiers were killed. The Kremlin called it a “mistake” and apologized. In response, Ankara accused Moscow of lying, because the Russian command had known about finding soldiers on these positions.

Cavusoglu observed that

“The irony is that Moscow decided to embark on their Syrian adventures as a dress rehearsal for their upcoming crimes in the Crimea and Donbas. The Russians do not take into account the interests of other regional players, mainly Türkiye and Iran. Now the topic of the annexation of the peninsula has become a sore point which provides ammunition for opponents of Russia. Judging by the angry exclamations by Russian officials and allies of Moscow, the Turkish authorities continue to remind Moscow that its main problem is the occupation of Crimea”.

The Russian authorities and its collaborators initially considered Türkiye as a potential partner. By the end of the year, there were signs of a possible agreement of the annexation by the Turkish government. In December of 2014, Putin visited Ankara. His collaborators gathered in a rally in the center of Simferopol, in support of the state visit. “Vice-Speaker” Remzi Ilyasov and then “deputy prime minister” Ruslan Balbec told his compatriots that Türkiye would soon be recognizing the “referendum” and the results. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had given them hope, saying the Kremlin was allegedly interested in protecting the rights of indigenous people.

“The Crimean Tatars are now recognized as an equal minority; before the referendum they were not. The Crimean Tatar language now has public status. During the negotiations, that Russia reiterated the interests and welfare of the people. If you have any questions, they [the Russians] are open for dialogue, and we are grateful to them,” said the then president of Türkiye.

At that time, Ankara had not officially recognized the Russian occupation but had maintained business relations with the occupied territory. On the peninsula, there were Turkish products and clothing, which gave the so-called “Council of Ministers” some hope. Crimean “power” and their business relationships were considered by Moscow a preliminary phase for a future political agreement.

After the incident of the downed Russian bomber Su-24, the Kremlin (mostly verbally) has taken a tough anti-Turkish stance. In the center of the Crimean capital, a rally was held in which an effigy of President Erdogan was burned. The hysterical reaction of Moscow and its henchmen had a logical explanation. But by blowing up the Russian aircraft, the Turks had effectively destroyed one of the founding myths of the Russian slogan of “Krymnash” (CRIMEA IS OURS).

Kremlin propaganda tried to convince the population that the peninsula is needed to counter NATO. And here they had a Russian military plane destroyed by a member of NATO, and Russia had been unable to respond militarily.

Then it became apparent that all the statements by Putin and his readiness to resort to nuclear weapons, to prevent “aggression” in Crimea were just the usual bluff.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine is also a complete failure of “professional Crimean Tatars” who hold positions of responsibility in the national “government.”

Once they were entrusted in 2014, including the establishment of ties with compatriots in Türkiye in order to influence public opinion and win over the official circles. This configuration assumes that the Turkish ministers were to communicate with Ilyasov, Smirnov, or Balbec. But Davutoglu discusses problems of the Crimean Tatars in Kyiv with the participation of deputies Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov. Türkiye as an ally by the decision of “Crimean issue” simply means that the Kremlin lost. Anyway, at least with the current team, led by Recep Erdogan.

Serhiy Stelmakh, Crimean political analyst (name and surname of the author changed for security reasons)
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