Turkey slams Russia for forcing Crimean channel off air

Turkey's Foreign Minister Cavusoglu says Russia has been notified Ankara expects ATR channel to be allowed to restart its broadcast.

Turkey slams Russia for forcing Crimean channel off air

CHISINAU, Moldova 

Turkey's Foreign Minister has slammed what he said was Russian oppression of Crimean Tatar people after Crimean Tatar ATR channel was forced off air.

During a joint press conference on Thursday with his Moldovan counterpart Natalia Gherman, Cavusoglu said the incident involving ATR was "another example of oppression of the Crimean-Tatar people".

Cavusoglu said Turkey had delivered a list to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about the incident, saying: "Turkey expects the necessary steps to be taken towards re-airing the ATR channel."

Cavusoglu also said an unofficial Turkish delegation will head to Crimea soon to investigate if any human rights violations had taken place in the peninsula.

He said: "We have formed the delegation. Now, there are different opinions from Russia and Ukraine about from where the delegation will head to in Crimea.

"As soon as this issue is solved, we will send the delegation."

- Buyout 'threat'

He also said Turkey would never the recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and added: "We both have good relations with Russia and Ukraine.

"Russia is a strong economic partner of Turkey, but that does not mean that we will not voice what is right in Crimea."

The ATR Channel - the only Crimean Tatar channel in the world - was forced off air after Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor refused to re-register the channel on March 31, a day before the April 1 deadline for registration.

According to the Crimean News Agency QNA, Lenur Islyamov, the owner of ATR, said he had received threats that the channel would be forced off air unless a buyout took place.

According to QNA, Islaymov said: "There were suggestions to buy the ATR. They said, 'Unless you sell it, we’ll take it by force'.

"Our doors are open. One can take the server or the frequency of the channel, take everything… but how can they take the ATR staff? How can the staff be sold?"

- 'Peace and understanding'

Turkish Foreign Ministry also released a statement on Thursday condemning the action, saying: "Turkey will continue to be the close follower of our Crimean Tatar kinsmen's prosperity and continue to pursue the developments in the region."

In the press conference, Cavusoglu said Turkey's trade volume with Moldova was about $530 million dollars, adding: "The number should be around $ 1 billion."

The foreign minister also mentioned he would visit the Governorship of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia of the Republic of Moldova with Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman. 

"We will continue to work together as Moldova and Turkey to strengthen the relations between Chisinau and Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia," Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu also highlighted the Transnistria issue in Moldova, saying Turkey had fully supported Moldova's territorial integrity.

"Transnistria issue should be resolved with peace and understanding of territorial integrity," said Cavusoglu.

- 'Important country'

Transnistria declared independence from the Soviet Union on August 19, 1990. 

It was then considered part of Moldova, from which it declared independence on September 1, 1990, and has for 24 years been an internationally unrecognized state.

Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman said during the press conference that Turkey was an important country for Moldova's energy projects.

Gherman said Moldova awaited the Turkish Parliament's confirmation that it would sign a free-trade agreement between Turkey and Moldova. 

After the conference, Gherman and Cavusoglu signed a cooperation protocol towards the studies of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency in Moldova.

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