Diplomat murder is provocation, say Russia and Turkey
By Eric Maurice
Russia and Turkey both sought to limit the diplomatic fallout after Russia's envoy to Ankara was shot dead on Monday (19 December).
Russian president Vladimir Putin said the killing of ambassador Andrei Karlov at an exhibition opening was "clearly a provocation".
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He said in a statement that the act was "aimed at undermining the improvement and normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations, as well as undermining the peace process in Syria promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries interested in settling the conflict in Syria".
The killer, a Turkish riot police officer, shouted after shooting: "Don't forget Aleppo, don't forget Syria."
Aleppo has been for months under Russian and Syrian bombs where many civilians have been trapped, waiting for humanitarian aid and to be evacuated. Russia has been accused of war crimes for targeting civilians.
"We have to know who organized this killing and gave orders to the assassin," Putin said, adding that the "only response" would be to "step up the fight against terrorism".
The Russian leader had been called earlier by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who also said the killing was a "provocation".
"Our relations with Russia are significant," Erdogan told the Turkish press agency Anadolu. "I am calling on those who aim to destroy our relations: You are waiting in vain. You will never reach your goals."
In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry added that Turkey would "not allow this attack to overshadow Turkish-Russian friendship".
In November 2015, tensions had flared between Ankara and Moscow after a Russian jet had been downed by Turkish air force at the limit of Turkish and Syrian fly zones. But the incident had not stopped Putin and Erdogan getting diplomatically closer.
Karlov's assassination happened a day before a meeting in Moscow of Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign and defence ministers about the future of Syria.
Russia and Iran support the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad while Turkey has long called for Assad to quit power, but the three countries have engaged in a rapprochement that keeps western powers away from discussions.
"We hope to speak in detail and concrete terms with those who can really bring about an improvement in the situation on the ground, while our Western partners are busier with rhetoric and propaganda and aren’t influencing those who listen to them," Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday before the Ankara killing.
The meeting was not cancelled despite the diplomat's assassination.
Turkish authorities linked Karlov's killer to the US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan's arch-enemy whose alleged supporters have been arrested en masse since a failed coup last July that was attributed to Gulenist forces.
Gulen and Nato theories
In Russia, some officials blamed Nato, of which Turkey is a member.
Frantz Klintsevich, a deputy chairman of the Russian senate defence committee, said it was “highly likely that representatives of foreign Nato secret service are behind” the killing.
Another senator from Putin's party, Alexei Pushkov, said that the assassination was “a result of the political and media hysteria whipped up around Aleppo by Russia’s opponents”.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg condemned the killing of ambassador Karlov and said that their was "no justification for such a heinous act".
A few hours before, Stoltenberg had chaired a meeting of the Nato-Russia Council where he said that "in times of tension, dialogue is more important than ever."
In Washington, president-elect Donald Trump said that "the murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilised order and must be universally condemned".
During the night, a gunman fired several shots outside the US embassy in Ankara. No one was harmed but the building was closed.