On the 19th of December, 2016, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov was assassinated when a murderer shot him in the back multiple times, while he was speaking at the opening of an art exhibition. The assassin Mevlut Mert Altıntas was an off-duty police officer from Izmir, a city known to be a hotbed of terrorist activity from the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO).
Karlov had played an instrumental role in turning poor Russo-Turkish relations into the flourishing partnership that exists now. Clearly, the people behind his targeted assassination were keen not to see Russia and Turkey becoming geopolitical allies.
Turkey continues to accuse the United States of supporting the FETO. In addition to Ankara blaming a failed coup against the Turkish government in the summer of 2016 on FETO elements in Turkey and the United States, Turkish authorities have also arrested employees at US consulates in Turkey due to their ties with the FETO. More recently, Turkey has demanded the extradition of FETO members who are working at Gulen sponsored schools in the Balkans, particularly in the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija which is home to one of the largest US overseas military bases, Camp Bondsteel.
The US ties to FETO are self-evidence enough as its terrorist leader Fethullah Gulen continues to live a comfortable life in exile in the United States. Washington has consistently refused Turkey’s multiple extradition requests for Gulen, under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump. By contrast, Turkey’s relations with Russia continue to improve. As recently as yesterday, a top aid to President Erdogan said that the success of recent Turkish operations in Syria, including Operation Olive Branch “were conducted thanks to Russia’s support”.
Now, Turkey seeks the arrest of Gulen for his personal involvement in the assassination of Ambassador Karlov. The move not only demonstrates Turkey’s preoccupation with bringing the Ambassador’s murderers to justice, but it demonstrates that Turkey is laying the blame for orchestrating the killing on a man who continues to receive personal shelter from the United States government, while Washington continues to be blamed for aiding and abetting Gulen’s radical terrorist group.
While Russia and the US have yet to comment on the issue, Turkey’s request is a clear sign that Ankara is prioritising its own safety and its partnership with Russia over that of placating a US govermnent which continues the Obama era policies of friendship with a dangerous criminal terrorist organisation, the FETO.