Moscow, Russia – The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was labeled by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “clearly provocative act” aimed at “undermining the peace process in Syria” during a public statement given on Monday evening.
“This murder is clearly a provocation aimed at undermining the improvement and normalization 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,” Putin said in a statement on Monday evening.
Putin’s words indicate that he believes the goal of the attack was to potentially derail an important trilateral meeting in Moscow today, between Russia, Iran and Turkey, to discuss the overall future of Syria, and the Aleppo humanitarian relief efforts.
Turkey is a major state backer of the insurgency in Syria, and a critical player in the effort to topple the Assad government, as its shared border with Syria allows for strategic access to the theater of war. Additionally, documents have revealed Turkey to be a key cog in the buying/selling of ISIS oil on the international black market, which essentially funded a large portion of their operations.
The meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey will go ahead as planned, in spite of the apparent effort to derail the meeting by the assassination of Ambassador Karlov.
“(The meeting) will be to understand the views of all three sides, laying out where we all stand and discuss where we go from here,” an official from Turkey’s foreign ministry told international media in Istanbul on Monday, according to Reuters.
“It is not a miracle meeting, but will give all sides a chance to listen to each other,” the official said.
Rather than doing as many expected, ratcheting up tensions between Turkey and Russia, the killing has actually had the opposite effect and aligned the parties resolve to not allow outside interference stifle the potential of peace in Syria.
Putin said that the “only response” Russia “should offer” is “stepping up the fight against terrorism,” the president added.
“The killers will feel it,” Putin stated.
During his public address, Putin said the Russian government had already launched an investigation of the assassination, and added that he had spoken with his Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the matter, noting that Turkish and Russian officials will cooperate in the investigation.
“We have to know who organized this killing and gave orders to the assassin,” Putin said.
Additionally, Erdogan labeled the killing in Ankara as an incitement aimed at destroying bilateral ties between Turkey and Russia, going so far as to call the killing a false flag attack – which would directly imply that he believes an outside state actor is likely behind the murder.
“I believe this is an attack on Turkey, the Turkish state and the Turkish people, and also a clear provocation … [in terms of] Turkish-Russian relations. I am sure our Russian friends also see this fact,” Erdogan said.
“Both Turkey and Russia have the will not to be deceived by this false flag attack.”
Erdogan also confirmed the identity of the attacker as 22-year-old Turkish riot police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, and added that the apparent aim of the attack was to degrade relations between Russia and Turkey.
“All the security measures around the Russian embassy and consulate general have been tightened as we agreed with Mr. Putin,” Erdogan noted.
The subtext in the words of both Putin and Erdogan is clear in the implication that state actors orchestrated the killing of Karlov in apparent an effort to destroy a potential negotiated peace settlement in Syria by sabotaging the meeting before it could take place – with the expectation that the murder would cause an enough of a strain on the Russo-Turkish relationship that the talks in Moscow would be scuttled.
One again proving to be a master tactician, Putin has chosen to do the opposite of what many western analysts expected. Rather than being drawn into conflict with the Turks, Putin has apparently chosen to work with the Turks to find out who actually orchestrated the killing of Russian Ambassador Karlov, and to find a negotiated peace in Syria.