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Turkey's Erdogan says Russia preparing ground for 'boutique' Syrian state

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Image 0President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again criticized Russia for its intervention inSyria, a move that he says lays the groundwork to create a "boutique" Syrian state around the northern province of Latakia.

To that end, Erdoğan says, Russia has been carrying out attacks against Turkmens around Latakia.

In a speech to Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, Erdoğan also slammed Iran, saying Tehran was using developments in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen to expand its sphere of influence and that it was trying to spark a dangerous process with a stance turning sectarian differences into conflict.

His remarks come at a time of an escalating diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran after Riyadh's severing ties with Tehran.

The diplomatic standoff is set to prolong as Arab countries, in a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on Sunday, accused Tehran of undermining regional security and meddling in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. While Turkey officially avoided taking sides in the crisis, Erdoğan, at least rhetorically, stood with Riyadh, calling the execution of a Shiite cleric a domestic issue of Saudi Arabia.

The annual gathering of Turkish ambassadors serving abroad in Ankara saw further politicization of Turkey's distinguished Foreign Ministry apparatus, which traditionally distanced itself from domestic and partisan political matters.

Over the past three years, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and its leader, Erdoğan, now president, have considered gathering as an opportunity to project its political objectives.

During his long speech, Erdoğan spoke about the ongoing military operation in Turkey's Southeast where security forces and militants of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) engaged in fierce battles in urban areas, a recent declaration signed by academics calling for return to the peace process, the tense relations with Russia, Iran's policies in the Middle East and so on.

A Syrian suicide bomber is thought to be responsible for an attack that killed at least 10 people including foreigners in the heart of İstanbul's historic Sultanahmet tourist district on Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said.

"I condemn the terror incident in İstanbul assessed to be an attack by a suicide bomber with Syrian origin. Unfortunately, we have 10 dead including foreigners and Turkish nationals. ... There are also 15 wounded," Erdoğan told a lunch for Turkish ambassadors in Ankara, in a speech broadcast live on television.


January 13 2016, 10:20

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