Kurds & US Special Forces should be used to seal Turkish-Syrian border – Russian FM

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov © Sergei Karpukhin
With Kurdish militia and US Special Forces on the ground, there is a realistic way to shut off the illegal flow of oil from Syria into Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at talks with his Serbian counterpart, Ivica Dacic.

Sealing the border between Turkey and Syria is more important at the moment than finding out who is buying the oil produced by Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), Lavrov said while speaking with Dacic in Belgrade on Wednesday. The talks come on the eve of a two-day conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), currently chaired by Serbia.

“Rather than launching a lengthy procedure of investigation, one must take an absolutely obvious step, i.e. close the Turkish-Syrian border,” Lavrov said, stressing that “Turkey’s efforts will not be enough and it will need help,” RIA Novosti reports.

“As for specific ways of sealing the border between Turkey and Syria, as well as between Turkey and Iraq, one must proceed from the real situation on the ground. Kurdish militia forces, which are allies of the US-led coalition, could be used both on the Syrian and Iraqi side of the border,” he added, as quoted by TASS.

Lavrov did not rule out involvement of US Special Forces stationed in Iraq in the border closure process either, but stressed that the process must be coordinated with Damascus. “Washington claims they could be also used in Syria. I am convinced that it could be done only with consent of the Syrian government,” Lavrov stressed.

At the same time, the minister announced that the facts concerning Turkey’s oil trade with Islamic State would be officially presented at the UN to all parties concerned.

“We have repeatedly publicly stated that oil from the IS-controlled territories is transported abroad, particularly to Turkey. The facts that substantiate these claims will be formally presented in the UN in particular, and to all parties concerned,” he said.

Referring to the November 24 downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish jet over Syria, Lavrov refuted Turkey’s claim that Russia had earlier refused to create “a hot line” between the militaries of the two countries, saying that such a line had been established, but that Ankara had never used it.

“Turkey’s media claim that he [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] proposed creating a “hot line” between the Defense ministries, but we [Russia] refused. This is a lie, as such a line was established at the earliest stage of the Russian Air Space Forces operation [in Syria] at Russia’s initiative,” he said.

“Turkey has never used it. It did not use it even in the incident on November 24,” Lavrov added, referring to the downing of Russia’s bomber.

The Russian foreign minister also stressed that, if by shooting down the Russian warplane Turkey had been trying to hinder talks on Syria in Vienna, or thwart Russia’s operation in Syria, it had failed.

“If Turkey’s downing of Russia’s plane on November 24 was aimed at sabotaging the political process within the Vienna group, then I can assure you that Turkey will not succeed in this matter,” Lavrov said after the talks with Dacic, who is also the current OSCE Chair.

However, Lavrov also said during the negotiations that he was ready to meet with his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the OSCE conference in order to try to lower recent tensions between the two countries.

“As far as the meeting with Turkish Minister [Mevlut] Cavusoglu goes, we are ready to make such a meeting on the sidelines [of the OSCE conference],” Lavrov told reporters as he arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday.

At the same time Lavrov warned that “it will be sad if we hear nothing new.”