Russia is ready to take practical steps to block the Turkish-Syrian border in cooperation with the Syrian government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday after talks with his Syrian counterpart Waleed Muallem, the Russian news agency TASS reported.
Lavrov said that French President Francois Hollande earlier voiced the proposal to adopt specific measures to block the border.
“We actively support that. We are open for coordination of practical steps, certainly, in interaction with the Syrian government,” Lavrov said. “We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil”.
Lavrov said Russia hopes the initiative by Hollande will be implemented within the framework of a joint international effort, including in the Group of Support for Syria. He also pointed out that Russia has questions about Ankara’s true objectives, including those related to counter-terrorist efforts.
“We think it highly cynical when some of the countries speak about their commitment to the corresponding United Nations Security Council resolutions and declare themselves members of anti-terrorist coalitions but in reality are playing a game where terrorists are allocated the role of secret allies,” Lavrov said.
The spokesperson for the Turkish presidency Ibrahim Kalin told local media that 90% of Russian airstrikes target the moderate Syrian opposition and not ISIS.
Kalin said downing the Russian military aircraft was not an act of aggression toward Russia, especially since Russian aircraft have violated Turkish airspace several times before. He also stressed that relations between both countries are strong and will be able to overcome any obstacles.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign ministry asked its citizens to delay trips to Russia amid strained relations between both countries.
“Within the framework of the recent developments in Turkey-Russia relations, it has been observed that our citizens have been having some difficulties with their trips to the Russian Federation and their residence within the said country as of 24 November,” the ministry said in a statement released Saturday.
Both Turkey and the US air forces halted airstrikes on targets in Syria after Russia’s deployment of the S-400 air-defence system at a Syrian airbase.
On 24 November, a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber. Moscow says the bomber was in Syrian airspace, which the F-16 violated, while Turkey claims the Russian jet crossed the Turkish border and was repeatedly warned before the attack.
Egyptian security advisor Sayed Ghoniem said the Russian Su-24 bomber was armed to strike land targets in Syria and was not equipped to defend itself against attack from other aircrafts. The Turkish F-16, meanwhile, was armed with anti-aircraft missiles, capable of taking down enemy aircraft in aerial combat.