Friday 9 December 2016

Centuries-old enmities are behind current tensions along the Turkish border

Published 25/11/2015 | 02:30

Syrian Turkmen fighters pictured with an anti-aircraft gun near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi, close to the Turkish-Syrian border yesterday – as tensions rise following the downing of a Russian fighter jet
Syrian Turkmen fighters pictured with an anti-aircraft gun near the northern Syrian village of Yamadi, close to the Turkish-Syrian border yesterday – as tensions rise following the downing of a Russian fighter jet

The shooting down of a Russian jet by Turkey yesterday underscores yet again just how many proxy wars are going on in the region and just how old enmities are resurfacing, despite increases in trade and investment over recent years.

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For example, only a few weeks ago the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was photographed chatting to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Russia is Turkey's No.2 trading partner. Trade has increased to more than $32.7bn annually, according to the Russian government, and a deal was signed with Russia to help build a $20bn nuclear plant in Turkey.

However, old hatreds and the history of this region concerns the constant Russian push to the South and the constant Turkish/Ottoman push to the East. Every few generations, these two major powers clash - and the battle for Syria is no exception. Although the line spun by the Europeans and Americans (particularly since the Paris bombing) is that there is a common enemy in Isil, this is not the case.

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