World / Middle East

Russia attempts ethnic cleansing in Syria: Turkish PM

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-12-10 08:45

ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday accused Russia of attempting an "ethnic cleansing" in northern Syria through its air strikes.

"Russia has been trying to protect Russian and Syrian bases while forcing Turkmen and Sunni population to leave their hometown Latakia," Davutoglu told foreign reporters in Istanbul.

He warned that Russia's action could force "many more millions" to flee the region, arguing that Russian bombings are serving the Islamic State (IS).

"Russia has been trying to cut the supply lines of opposition forces by bombing Azaz region in Syria," he said.

The tension with Russia has escalated after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane on Nov 24, and Moscow has imposed punitive measures against Ankara in response.

Davutoglu once again voiced Turkey's readiness to cooperate with Russia to prevent a repetition of such incidents.

Referring to Turkey's military deployment to Bashiqa camp in northern Iraq, the prime minister said that Turkish soldiers were sent there following an increase of IS threat against the Turkish military.

Davutoglu noted that the Bashiqa camp is only 15 to 20 kms from IS-controlled Mosul and the militants had recently increased their threats considerably.

Turkish military trainers in the camp have only light weapons, he added.

"So when these threats increased, we sent some troops to protect the camp, not as an act of aggression but as an act of solidarity," he remarked.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday urged NATO to force Turkey to immediately withdraw its troops from Iraq, stressing that Turkish troops are in Iraqi territory "without the knowledge nor permission of the Iraqi government."

The crisis was triggered over the weekend following reports about the deployment of a Turkish battalion, equipped with armored vehicles, to Bashiqa camp near Mosul, Iraq's second largest city currently under IS control.

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