Russia ‘determined to fight terror’ after envoy’s assassination
Russia has warned it will not make “concessions to terrorists” a day after its ambassador was gunned down in the Turkish capital Ankara.
Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said his country remained “determined to fight terrorism” after a meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts Tuesday.
The man who opened fire on the ambassador was identified as police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas.
The meeting, which had been arranged to discuss the situation in Aleppo before Andrey Karlov was gunned down at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara, comes on the same day as an 18-strong investigative team of Russia’s special agencies arrived in Turkey to help authorities with their inquiries.
“This tragedy makes all of us more determined to fight terrorism and makes this meeting even more useful,” Russian news agency Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying.
He said he hoped the talks would “create conditions for a more efficient delivery of humanitarian aid without making any concessions to terrorists.”
“It is necessary to establish all the circumstances of the organization and [the] execution of the terrorist act as soon as possible.”
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the attack was intended to “harm our relations and destroy all the achievements we have made together recently.”
He welcomed the investigative team from Russia, insisting the two countries would work together to “uncover who is behind this vile and treacherous terror attack.”
“Turkey and Russia have recently proven what they can achieve when they co-operate, not only to their own people but to the whole world,” he said.
“We will maintain this co-operation in Syria in order to reach a political resolution and also extend the co-operation to other areas.”
He also announced that the street which houses the Russian embassy in Ankara will be renamed in Karlov’s honor.
On Monday night, Altintas, a Turkish police officer, fired several shots at Karlov shouting “Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”
Seven people have been taken in for questioning in relation to the shooting, including the shooter’s parents, sister, uncle and two more relatives. His flatmate, a police officer, was also arrested, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.
Altintas’ uncle was released under “judicial control,” or bail-like conditions, Anadolu quoted security sources as saying.
According to Anadolu, his uncle was a former senior executive at a private school connected to cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose movement Turkey considered a terrorist group. The school was shut down following the failed coup in July.
The rest of the relatives were taken for questioning, the agency quoted security sources as saying.
The assassination came at a time of thawing relations between Russia and Turkey and at a pivotal moment in Syria where Russia has been instrumental in President Bashar al-Assad’s push to retake rebel-held areas.
Shooting a ‘provocation’
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the killing was clear “provocation” aimed at undermining not just the normalization of Russian-Turkish relations but the “peace process in Syria” promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries.
“The only response we should offer to this murder is stepping up our fight against terror, and the criminals will feel the heat,” Putin said in televised remarks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed Putin’s sentiments, saying “the Russian government and the Turkish republic have the will to not fall into that provocation.”
Russia and Turkey’s role in Syria
Russia has been denounced by human rights groups and several countries over its backing of the Syrian president.
It is the most powerful ally of Assad’s regime and has carried out airstrikes since September 2015 to prop up the embattled leader. As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia has also used its veto powers to block a political solution to end the war.
Moscow’s bombardment of Syria has drawn criticism from Western powers, with US President Barack Obama on Friday accusing Russia of slaughtering civilians in the besieged city of Aleppo in concert with the Assad regime.
Moscow has recently tried to distance itself from the current assault in eastern Aleppo, saying earlier this month it hasn’t bombed the city since October 18.
Turkey’s involvement in Syria is complicated. On one hand, the Turks are eager to help eradicate ISIS. On the other hand, Ankara has worked to drive Kurdish fighters from the Syrian side of the border.
Meanwhile, the United States supports Kurdish groups in both Syria and Iraq as critical partners in the battle against ISIS.
All US embassy and consulates in Turkey were to be closed Tuesday following a separate incident, hours after the assassination.
Turkish police arrested a man who fired into the air with a shotgun outside the US Embassy in Ankara, Anadolu reported.
Video fed by Turkish video news agency IHA showed a handcuffed man being led by security officers into an unmarked police car as he shouted “I swear to God. Don’t play with us,” in Turkish. No one was injured.
CNN’s Sarah Sirgany, Madison Park, Sheena Jones, Sheena McKenzie, Sebastian Shukla, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Gul Tuyuz, Alla Eshchenko and Hande Atay Alam contributed to this report.