Russian envoy shooting: What impact on Russia-Turkey ties?

December 19, 2016 11:22 pm
Turkish soldiers and policemen stand guard near the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi, a major art exhibition hall, where Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, was shot dead on December 19, 2016 © AFP / ADEM ALTAN

, Istanbul, Turkey, Dec 19 – The assassination of Russia’s envoy to Turkey will likely not harm warming bilateral ties but its impact will be felt more in Syria, according to analysts surveyed by AFP.

The Turkish and Russian leaders spoke immediately after the event and Turkey’s foreign minister voiced its determination not to let the assassination cast a shadow over relations.

Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot by a Turkish policeman at an exhibition in Ankara apparently as an act of revenge for the Russian bombing of Aleppo.

Here are the views of three analysts questioned by AFP in the immediate aftermath of the attack:

— Domitilla Sagramoso, a lecturer in security and development at King’s College London, said the shooting would have a greater impact on Syria than relations between Ankara and Moscow.

“It will not substantially disrupt the relationship because the Turks have immediately said they will reinforce the security of the Russian embassy,” she said.

Sagramoso saw the killing as a reaction to Russia’s bombardment of Aleppo, where Moscow would likely focus its response.

“I think they’re going to react how they usually do, which is to redouble their efforts, redouble their military involvement. So it might have more repercussions on Syria,” she said.

“They’re not going to bomb Turkey for this, but I think it may play out within the Syrian context.”

— James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia programme at the Chatham House think tank, said Moscow will use the attack to claim it is on the same side as Ankara in fighting terrorism.

“Russia will paint it as part of a wider war on terror,” he said.

“My sense is that the Russians won’t blame the Turks for this but will seek to capitalise on it for wider gains.”

Nixey suggested Moscow would use the killing to win backing for its policy in Syria from US president-elect Donald Trump.

A more immediate response from Moscow may come in Aleppo, he said: “It could well affect the proposed evacuations from Aleppo which the Russians were close to a deal on. They may be less sympathetic.”

“Clearly the Russian military will be baying for blood, they’ll want revenge,” Nixey added.

— Dominique Moisi, from the Paris-based Montaigne Institute, agreed the two parties will do their best to ensure the killing doesn’t harm ties between them.

“The two countries have decided to move closer together. The Turks have recognised that Bashar al-Assad is going to stay in power and they will have to live with a Russian presence in Syria,” Moisi said.

“I don’t think there will be significant consequences but, on a symbolic level, it shows that what happening in Aleppo is not acceptable for one part of the Muslim population.”

“Assad has won. Russia has won, but the problem is far from being resolved. The deaths in Aleppo will hang over the international scene for a long time.”


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