VIENNA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan, an ally of Russia which also has close trade, linguistic and cultural ties with Turkey, urged Moscow and Ankara on Thursday to think “strategically” and de-escalate their dispute over the Turkish downing of a Russian jet.
The dispute threatens to wreck efforts to end Syria’s civil war, Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov told Reuters in an interview, though he added that Kazakhstan had no plans to offer its services as a mediator between Russia and Turkey,
Following the Nov. 24 incident near the Turkish-Syrian border, in which one Russian pilot was killed, Moscow announced an economic sanctions package against Ankara including the banning of some Turkish food imports. On Thursday President Vladimir Putin said further sanctions were planned.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev fears the dispute has “great potential to bring of lots of damage to the emerging spirit of consensus” on tackling the Syrian crisis, said Idrissov during a visit to Vienna.
“So this is a big danger and of course if it continues to grow, it will have very negative repercussions all over the world,” he said.
Turkey, along with its NATO allies such as the United States and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab states, backs Syrian rebel groups battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian leader has the backing of Russia and Iran.
“Emotions are running high (in Turkey and Russia), but my president (Nazarbayev), knowing Mr Putin very well personally and knowing his great potential to be constructive and knowing personally President (Tayyip) Erdogan, believes and hopes they will think strategically in this very difficult situation,” Idrissov said.
“If there is a request to do something we will always be there to offer our assistance ... (but) I don’t think there is a need for any mediating in this situation. It is for Russia and Turkey to come to terms.”
Nazarbayev has maintained strong ties between his energy-rich, ethnically Turkic republic and Moscow since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union while building new economic links to Turkey and other countries.
Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gareth Jones