by Han Liang, Igor Serebryne
MOSCOW, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin postponed his visit to Turkey originally scheduled this week following the Turkish authorities' interception of a Syria-bounded passenger plane flying from Moscow.
Though Moscow has denied connection between the delayed visit and the plane interception, local experts said the incident would pile up more clouds into the foggy Russia-Turkey ties.
Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said Last Thursday the president's visit to Turkey, scheduled for Oct. 15, might take place on December 3.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the information later, saying Putin and him had set the date during a telephone conversation a few days ago.
The postponement "has nothing to do" with the plane incident, during which the Syrian plane, carrying a total of 35 passengers including 17 Russians, was grounded by Turkey over alleged "non-civilian cargo" on board, said Erdogan.
Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia's National Defense magazine, described the actions of the Turkish authorities as "air piracy". Since Syria was under no sanctions from the United Nations Security Council, it was "purely bilateral business between Russia and Syria, what to ship from one country to another," he said.
Moscow re-affirmed everything it had done in that situation was absolutely legal.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the plane intercepted by Turkish fighter jets carried no banned cargo, a direct rebuttal of Turkish authorities' claims that it was carrying Russian-made munitions destined for Syria's defense ministry.
The electro-technical equipment, designed for a radar station, was sent by a Russian contractor to its client and came through customs, thus had all necessary accompanying papers attached, Lavrov said.
According to Korotchenko, the double-purpose equipment was no more sensible than an iPad consignment. "Its transportation by civilian planes is allowed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules," he added.
It seemed the intelligence Ankara received was incorrect, so when Turkey forcefully landed the plane, they found themselves in the midst of confusion, Korotchenko said.
"They wanted to conduct an 'informational strike' against both Damascus and Moscow. As a result, they have hit themselves," the expert said.
UPS AND DOWNS
By postponing Putin's visit, Moscow hinted to Ankara it assumed too much. The Turkish authorities put in danger the lives of 17 Russian citizens and ruffled the Russian government, local experts said.
Lavrov said Moscow demanded explanations from Ankara on why the Turkish authorities denied Russian diplomats access to the Russian citizens on board the A-320 aircraft forced to land in Ankara. Meanwhile, the Russian supplier would request the Turkish side to return the detained consignment.
On Sunday, however, the Russian foreign minister seemed to tone down his discontent, saying the plane incident would not affect the Russia-Turkey ties.
"I reassure you that no one should worry about the state of the Russia-Turkish relations. They are developing on a stable and solid basis," Lavrov told reporters after a meeting with his EU colleagues in Luxembourg.
Calling Russia and Turkey "long-standing friends," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn also pledged that the European Union would assure "their friendship preserved."
Analysts said relations between Turkey and Russia have been controversial for historical reasons.
The two countries were in war for several times and participated in confronting coalitions in a number of large-scale conflicts. Since the end of World War II, Turkey has been a member of NATO, the bloc's only member having common border with the USSR.P However, until the recent plane incident, bilateral relations were on the rise, and the Turkish president visited Moscow not long ago, Korotchenko noted, saying the weather in their relations began to deteriorate after Ankara openly took a course of undermining Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
"Turkey took the Western side as a NATO member, while Russia stood on a position that no outside intervention should be allowed into the Syrian domestic affairs," said the expert.
For Moscow, it is desirable to have good relations with Turkey, but solving the Syrian crisis is always a priority for Kremlin, Korotchenko said.
"By now, it is unclear for how long and to what degree the cooling between Russia and Turkey might continue. However, it is clear Moscow is not going to bargain with anyone over Syria," the expert said.