The United States has dismissed Russia’s accusation that the Turkish government is directly benefiting from illegal oil trade with the Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
"The Turks have been great partners" in fighting Daesh militants, said US Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, at a press briefing in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Wednesday.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner also rejected the Russian claims. "We reject, outright, the premise that the Turkish government is in league with ISIL to smuggle oil across its borders. And we frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation."
“There is no Turkish government complicity in some operation to buy illegal oil from [ISIL]," he said.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov made the accusation on Wednesday, saying Russia had evidence that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family were benefiting from the smuggling of oil from territories held by Daesh terrorists.
The ministry official showed satellite images purporting to show Daesh terrorists transporting oil from Syria and Iraq to neighboring Turkey.
"Turkey is the main destination for the oil stolen from its legitimate owners, which are Syria and Iraq. Turkey resells this oil. The appalling part about it is that the country's top political leadership is involved in the illegal business — President Erdogan and his family," said Antonov.
Erdogan dismissed the accusation as “slander” and vowed to resign if the accusations against him are proved.
Russia has previously accused Turkey of engaging in oil trade with Daesh, but this is the first time Moscow pointed finger at Erdogan and his family.
Moscow and Ankara have been engaged in a war of words since the Turkish Air Force shut down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet on 24 November, claiming the warplane had repeatedly violated Turkish airspace. Moscow, however, insists the jet never left Syrian airspace.