Armenia’s and Greece’s defense ministers accused Turkey of aiding Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Syria and condemned it for shooting down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border after holding talks in Yerevan on Wednesday.
Seyran Ohanian and his visiting Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos, openly sided with Moscow in its continuing war of words with Ankara over the November 24 downing of the Russian Su-24 bomber by a Turkish fighter jet.
“Turkey has failed to prove that its airspace was violated. In fact, the Russian warplane was shot down in Syria’s airspace,” Kammenos said in remarks sharply contrasting with NATO’s endorsement of the Turkish version of events.
“Turkey continues to resort to provocations in the region. It does not respect international law and violates Greece’s airspace,” he told a joint news conference with Ohanian.
“I agree with the Armenian defense minister’s assertion that Turkey supports the Islamic State. It is evident that there is illegal trafficking of oil, weapons, drugs and people going via Turkey and that the resulting money flows to terrorists,” charged Kammenos.
“There are countries in the region, notably Turkey, that help the Islamic State accomplish its objectives,” Ohanian said, for his part, echoing Russian allegations vehemently denied by Ankara.
“We condemn all that. We condemn it also in the sense that it is directed against our strategic partners,” he added in a clear reference to the November 24 incident.
Ohanian already condemned the shoot-down on November 25 as a blow to international efforts to defeat terrorist groups operating in Syria.
Armenia relies heavily on Russia for defense and security not least because of a perceived threat from Turkey. Greece likewise has an uneasy relationship with Turkey despite the fact that both nations are members of NATO.
This seems to have been a key factor behind Greek-Armenian military cooperation underlined by Kammenos’s visit to Armenia. In particular, the Greek military has trained hundreds of Armenian officers and provided assistance to an Armenian army brigade that contributes troops to multinational peacekeeping missions abroad.
A statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry said Ohaniana and Kammenos agreed to give “new impetus” bilateral military-technical cooperation. It did not give details.