Erdoğan contradicts Kremlin remarks on murderer of ambassador

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) welcomes Albania's President Bujar Nishani during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on December 21, 2016 / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

In an open challenge to Moscow’s statement that it is too early to say who masterminded the murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the assassin is obviously a member of “FETÖ,” a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to members of the Gülen movement.

“The assassin of the Russian ambassador is obviously a member of FETÖ. There is no need to hide it,” said Erdoğan during a press conference with Albanian President Bujar Nishani in Ankara.

In a similar statement Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had told his US counterpart, John Kerry, during a phone conversation on Tuesday that both Russia and Turkey “know” the followers of the Gülen movement were behind the murder.

But the Kremlin said on Wednesday it was too early to say who masterminded the murder of Ambassador Karlov, who was shot dead by a Turkish police officer at an Ankara art gallery on Monday.

When Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the Turkish foreign minister’s comments on Wednesday, he said it was too early to draw any conclusions about who may have orchestrated the murder.

“We need to wait for the results of the joint investigative group,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “It is really not worth rushing to any conclusions.”

Jaish al-Fatah, an umbrella organization that encompasses the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, has reportedly claimed responsibility for the murder of Russian Ambassador Karlov. The terrorist group claimed responsibility via a letter which appeared on the Internet. The letter was written in Arabic and has yet to be confirmed.

The Turkish government has been waging an all-out war against the Gülen movement since the outbreak of a corruption scandal in late 2013. The government’s crackdown on the movement reached new heights with a failed coup attempt on July 15 as the government held the movement responsible for the putsch. The movement strongly denies having any role in the failed coup.

In the meantime, Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen on Monday condemned the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey as a “heinous act of terror” and urged the Turkish government to identify anyone who aided the gunman.

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