If ever there was a time for diplomacy, it is now
The curse that has afflicted Aleppo touched Europe yesterday with the cold-blooded murder of Russia's ambassador to Turkey.
It was claimed that the Turkish policeman responsible for the murder shouted: "Allahu Akbar! Do not forget Aleppo!"
The assassination of an ambassador is a particularly provocative act. It violates all sense of order. The intention is to prompt an incendiary and disproportionate response, creating further instability and spreading the circle of terror.
Turkey, a long-time adversary of Russia and President Assad of Syria, had in recent times forged new ties with Moscow. It played a part in helping to broker a deal to evacuate civilians and rebel fighters from the last opposition enclaves in Aleppo. There is a strongly held view that the ruthless assault on Aleppo would not have taken place if Donald Trump was not US president-elect. The theory is that Mr Putin has been emboldened by the hiatus on Capitol Hill. He has out-manoeuvred the US repeatedly in the Middle East. Mr Trump has gone further than any recent American leader to make overtures to the Russian leader. The appointment of Rex Tillerson as the new US Secretary of State, a man who already has a strong working relationship with Mr Putin, is widely regarded as a step towards some kind of rapprochement between the two super powers. It is to be hoped that the atrocity in Ankara does not precipitate a new flashpoint. In the past, President Putin has defended himself by insisting that: "Today, it is imperative to end this hysteria, to refute the rhetoric of the Cold War and to accept the obvious fact: Russia is an independent, active participant in international affairs. Like other countries, it has its own national interests that need to be taken into account and respected." Russia undoubtedly has a constructive role to play; but it must work in tandem with the rest of the global community. The gravity of what transpired in Ankara cannot be overstated. This murder was a challenge to diplomacy, but if ever there was a time for diplomacy, this is it. As Enoch Powell once said: "History is littered with the wars everybody knew could never happen." There were chilling historical resonances in yesterday's assassination. The global temperature needs to be reduced given yesterday's attacks in Berlin and Ankara.