On April 2, Turkey issued a writ against the religious leader Fethullah Gulen for murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in 2016. Ankara asserted, the arrest warrants came after a link between Andrei Karlov’s assassin and Fetullah Gulen was detected. Besides Gulen, the authorities ordered the arrests of other seven people connected to the murder. Reasons cited for the arrest included “pre-meditated murder” and “attempt to overthrow constitutional order”.
Karlov was murdered by an off-duty policeman, Mert Altintas, while speaking at an Ankara exhibit opening in December 2016. The gunman was shot dead by police at the scene.
Ankara also accuses Gulen and his organization of a failed military coup on July 15 in 2016. That day a faction of the Turkish military declared that it had taken power over the country. However, the Erdogan government suppressed the attempt.
After the failed military coup the Turkish government also blamed Gulenists for downing the Russian jet Su-24 in Syria on November 24, 2016. For example, Ankara’s mayor Melih Gokcek stated:
“The pilot – murderer was a member of Gulen’s organization, who created a “parallel government” in Turkey from the US. Now, I’ll definitely say, these scamps damaged relations with Russia”.
However, initially when the Su-24 incident occurred in November 2016, Turkish officials justified the incident by the need to defend their country’s national interests.
The Turkish foreign policy and its public stance are well-known as a very “flexible”. Ankara often shifts its approach and public statements depending on external and internal circumstances.
When the Russian military campaign in Syria started in 2015, the Erdogan government received it negatively. However, after the Su-24 shot down and further escalation, Ankara’s stance started changing. The key reason was it had become clear that Russia wouldn’t limit its counter-measures to public condemnation and soft economic sanctions, but would further increase the pressure on Turkey.
Now, it looks that the Turkish leadership has found “a whipping boy” to blame for all the public isssues between Ankara and Moscow. At present, Fethullah Gulen stays in the USA and obviously cooperates with US intelligence agencies. Therefore, blaming Gulen in all deep sins, Ankara indirectly blames the USA itself. This is especially ironic because Turkey is a NATO member state and one of the key “US allies” in the Middle East.