Turkey-Russia relations under strain over Syria

Turkish Prime Minister says the country doesn't want tension with Russia over Russian intervention in Syria

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on September 23, 2015

“Neither Putin or anyone else will make us leave our country,” a man wails stood on top of a pile of rubble.

He’s in the rebel-held Syrian town of Daret Azzeh, not far from Aleppo, and there’s just been an air strike.

“We will still live under the rubble,” the man shouts while being filmed.

Syrian activists say the attack was carried out by Russia.

TRT World can not verify the claim, but online footage of the aftermath also shows another man carrying a small boy from the debris.

Russian air strikes have continued to pummel Syrian rebels in various parts of the country, intensifying divisions with the West.

Tensions between Russia and Turkey have also widened after a number of violations of Turkish airspace by Russian jets.

“We don’t want any kind of tension with Russia,”the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference in Istanbul. “But it is our right to see respect from Russia for our airspace, borders and our interests in Syria.”

“We do not want this to turn into a NATO-Russia crisis,” he said.

The talk of a potential crisis stands in stark contrast to the image of friendship projected by the Turkish and Russian Presidents in Moscow two weeks ago.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, attended the ceremonial opening of the Russian capital’s new main mosque and also held talks with President Putin.

It’s clear now those talks yielded no agreement over Syria.

President Putin’s attempt to redress the military balance on the ground and boost the chances of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s survival is directly at odds to Turkish policy to have him removed.

“[Russia] is a big powerful neighbour for Turkey and instability in the region may create big problems for Turkey,” says analyst Lehmet Korkut from Medipol University.

He argues that Turkey’s strong economic ties with Russia means the two countries will maintain a good relationship.

Trade between the countries is forecast to more than double in the next decade and Turkey also depends on Russia for around half of its natural gas.

But the Russian intervention in Syria means different air forces with different objectives are flying dangerously close to each other.

Regardless of the economic links, the US and other Nato countries fear a mistake could lead to an escalation in tensions and even conflict.

Author: Duncan Crawford