Erdogan’s main rival says has ‘evidence’ of Russia’s interference in elections

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Kemal Kilicdaroglu, main challenger of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Friday his party has concrete evidence of Russia’s responsibility for the release of “deep fake” online content ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections.

Asked why he tweeted on Thursday that Russia was responsible, he told Reuters: “If we did not have it [concrete evidence], I wouldn’t have tweeted.” The party did not contact the Russian embassy in Turkey over the issue, he added.

“We find it unacceptable for another country to interfere in Turkey’s election process in favor of a political party. I wanted the whole world to be aware of this, that is why I made this call openly by a tweet,” he said in an interview.

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Kilicdaroglu’s comments were made ahead of a statement by the Kremlin which denied Russia’s interference in the Turkish presidential election, saying the allegations were false and had been concocted by liars.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the people who had passed on such allegations to Kilicdaroglu were liars and that Russia valued its ties with Turkey enormously.

In his office in Ankara, Kilicdaroglu - who is leading Erdogan in most opinion polls - stressed that Turkey has close economic links with Russia and signaled that he would pursue a fine balance in foreign policy over relations with Moscow.

“We want to maintain our relations, we don’t want to break our friendly relations but we will not allow interference in our internal matters,” he said. Kilicdaroglu also said he would push for another peace initiative between Russia and Ukraine once he wins the Sunday vote.

“It is very important for us, and for the whole world, if we succeed to reach a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. But we should make it clear that we do not find it right for any country to occupy another country,” he said.

When asked whether he would support NATO enlargement if he is elected as president, he said: “Of course,” without elaborating.

“NATO is not only solely a military organization in the 21st century, it is also an organization that defends democracy. We will maintain our relations with NATO within the same framework as we had in the past,” Kilicdaroglu added.

Kilicdaroglu said a fundamental problem of Turkey’s foreign policy in Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) tenure was the exclusion of the foreign ministry in the policy making process.

“We would pursue a peace-oriented foreign policy that prioritizes Turkey’s national interest. Our priority our national interests and to act in line with the modern world,” Kilicdaroglu added.

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