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U.S. rejects Russia’s claim against Turkey

Russian defence officials said Turkey is the main consumer of ISIS oil, adding they have proof of their claim

Published: Updated:

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said it rejected any outright suggestion that Turkey is working with ISIS to smuggle oil after Russia accused the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family of involvement in illegal oil trade with the militant radicals.

Instead, the U.S. said if Russians were concerned about ISIS’s illicit finance they should take it up with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is Moscow’s close ally.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a news briefing that U.S. information was that ISIS was selling oil at the wellheads to middlemen who in turn were involved in smuggling the oil across the frontier into Turkey.

“We reject outright the premise that the Turkish government is in league with ISIL to smuggle oil across its borders,”" Toner
said, using an acronym for the militant group. “We frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said it is not possible to explain Russia’s claim of Turkey buying ISIS oil with reason after Turkey’s president dubbed Moscow’s sanctions against Ankara as “emotional.”

“It is not possible to explain Russia’s allegations by reason,” Davutoglu told a meeting of prominent businessmen in Ankara, adding that Moscow’s punishing of Turkish businesses through economic sanctions was not in line with international law.

Earlier, Russia’s defence ministry on Wednesday accused Erdogan and his family of buying illegal oil trade with ISIS, as a dispute rages over Ankara’s downing of one of Moscow's warplanes.

“The main consumer of this oil stolen from its legitimate owners Syria and Iraq is Turkey. According to available information, the highest level of the political leadership of the country, President Erdogan and his family, are involved in this criminal business,” deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists.

On Wednesday, Turkey emphasized it won’t retaliate against Russia’s “emotional” sanctions.

Russian Defence Ministry officials also said that they had proof of their claim.

The officials, speaking at an event in Moscow, cited satellite imagery which they said showed oil tanker trucks heading from ISIS territory to Turkey and said they knew of three routes by which the oil passed into Turkey.

The Defence Ministry added it would continue to launch air strikes on ISIS oil infrastructure in Syria as part of its bombing campaign.

Erdogan’s response

In response, Erdogan also said that Russia had no right to “slander” Turkey with allegations and he does not want any further harm to relations with Russia.

“No one has a right to engage in slander against Turkey by saying that Turkey is buying oil from Daesh (ISIS),” Erdogan said in comments broadcast by Turkish television on a visit to Qatar, after the Russian defence ministry claimed he and his family were involved in the illegal oil trade.

(With Reuters, AFP)