The United States Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, on Thursday said that there is no evidence that Turkey buys oil from the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group.
Bass was likely responding to a statement by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who said during a visit to Greece this week that Turkey supports terrorism instead of combating it, by permitting ISIS to enjoy "Turkish money for oil."
However, Bass’s statement did not mention Ya’alon nor did it directly refer to his remarks.
“We reject the premise that the Turkish government is in league with ISIL to smuggle oil,” he said, using the alternative acronym for ISIS. “We have seen no evidence to support such an accusation.”
“In fact,” continued Bass, “ISIL oil smuggling has decreased over time due to efforts of the Turks and other counter-ISIL coalition members to target oil extraction and transportation infrastructure.”
“Turkey continues to take steps to improve the security of its border with Syria, working with the United States and other international partners,” he concluded.
In November, after Turkey downed a Russian plane, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ankara of buying oil from ISIS, a charge which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied. Erdogan even went so far as to declare he would be ready to quit office if Russia’s allegations were proven to be true.
The United States issued a similar statement following Putin’s claim, with a State Department spokesman saying “we frankly see no evidence, none, to support such an accusation.”
But speculation over possible Turkish involvement with ISIS has loomed large since a senior Western official leaked details of a U.S. special forces operation last May to kill ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, wherein he said evidence was found that Turkey was one of the main buyers of ISIS's oil.