ROME (Reuters) – Turkey’s foreign minister said Ankara’s patience with Russia “has a limit” after Moscow’s “exaggerated” reaction to a weekend naval incident between the two countries, an Italian newspaper reported yesterday.
A Russian destroyer fired warning shots at a Turkish vessel in the Aegean on Sunday to avoid a collision and summoned the Turkish military attache over the incident.
“Ours was only a fishing boat, it seems to me that the reaction of the Russian naval ship was exaggerated,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview.
“Russia and Turkey certainly have to re-establish the relations of trust that we have always had, but our patience has a limit,” Cavusoglu said.
The incident is likely to heighten tensions between the two nations who are at odds over Syria and Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane last month.
Cavusoglu said Russia had already “put itself in a ridiculous position” with accusations by its President Vladimir Putin that Turkey had shot down the jet to protect oil supplies from Islamic State.
“No-one believed it” he said.
He also criticised Russia’s military intervention in Syria, saying it was aimed at propping up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, not combating Islamic State.
“Unfortunately Russia is not in Syria to fight terrorists,” he said, adding that only 8 per cent of its air strikes had been aimed at Islamic State while 92 per cent were against other groups hostile to Assad.
Cavusoglu also said air strikes were not sufficient to defeat Islamic State and soldiers on the ground were necessary, according to the interview.