Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, who previously accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family of engaging in illegal oil trade and funding the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was treated like a “star” at an exhibition hosted last Monday by the Turkish Embassy in Washington marking the third anniversary of a failed coup in 2016.
Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kılıç interestingly tweeted a photo of him and his Russian colleague during the event, writing, “Representatives from US government offices, members of the diplomatic corps and journalists were also present.”
Bugün, Milli Birlik ve Demokrasi günü çerçevesinde 15 Temmuz destanını yazan şehit ve gazilerimizi anmak üzere Büyükelçiliğimizde, çeşitli ABD makamlarının temsilcileri, kordiplomatik ve basın mensuplarının katılımıyla bir tören tertipledik. pic.twitter.com/4eHpBbonth
— Serdar KILIÇ (@serdarkilic9) July 15, 2019
Antonov became a well-known figure in Turkish-Russian relations following a crisis between the two countries after Turkish jets downed a Russian aircraft near the Syrian border on November 24, 2015, which an angry Vladimir Putin called a “stab in the back.”
Antonov, then deputy minister of defense of the Russian Federation, held a briefing on December 4, 2015 broadcast live on state television presenting intelligence photographs and video clips taken from the air and space showing a large number of trucks transporting oil from then-ISIL-controlled regions in Iraq and Syria to Turkey.
“Turkey is the main destination for the oil stolen from its legitimate owners, which are Syria and Iraq. Turkey resells this oil. The appalling part about it is that the country’s top political leadership is involved in the illegal business — President Erdogan and his family,” Antonov said in his speech.
Antonov attacked Erdoğan personally, alleging, “Mr. Erdogan and Turkish leaders would not step down or admit anything even if their faces were smeared with stolen oil.”
Antonov also targeted Turkish Finance Minister and Erdoğan son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who was energy minister at the time. “It is interesting that no one in the West [asks] themselves the question of why the son of the Turkish president is the head of one of the largest energy companies and his son-in-law the minister of energy and natural resources?”
The nine-month-long crisis started to resolve after President Erdoğan on June 27, 2016 apologized to Putin, saying, “Turkey never had the desire or deliberate intention of shooting down the Russian plane,” in the wake of heavy economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure in the international arena by Russia.
The relations between the two countries were further strengthened when Turkey made a deal to buy a Russian-made S-400 air defense system despite repeated warnings of sanctions from the US, in 2017, one year after the coup attempt, which resulted in the purge of pro-NATO officers from the military.
Deliveries of components for the S-400 system began the week before last. In an expected move, the White House announced Turkey’s removal from its F-35 fighter jet program.