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The curious case of Turkey’s ‘non-alignment’ in days of Syria crisis

By Shubham

Even as the West and Russia stand polarised over the civil war in Syria, the stance taken by Turkey has been deemed interesting by many. While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is no fan of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he doesn't share a rapport with the West and Nato either and this raises the question over Ankara's position in the current international affairs.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey's relations with Russia, a supporter of Syria, also hit the rock bottom after a Russian jet was shot down by the Turkish forces over the Turkey-Syria border in November 2015.

In a recent editorial in the mouthpiece of Turkey's ruling party AKP (Justice & Development Party), Yeni Safak, it was said that Turkey is neither pro-Russia nor pro-Nato. "We Are Turkish, Thank God," it said while speaking on the country's relations with Russia and the West.

The editorial also opined that the recent US-UK-France strike against Syria's chemical weapons facilities was not directed at punishing Assad but rather create a gulf between Turkey and Russia.

Turkey had praised the West's attack against Syria on April 14 in the wake of Assad's alleged chemical weapons attack against his own people in Douma a week earlier but it disappointed Russia through its president Vladimir Putin had a talk with Erdogan the same day over the phone.

Putin slammed the attack on Syria saying it violated the principles of international law. Moscow also stressed on the need of intensifying bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey to achieve a political solution in Syria.

Erdogan also had a talk with French President Emmanuel Macron on the same day whereby he condemned the use of chemical weapons and a couple of days later, Macron said the multinational strike "separated Turkey and Russia".

Turkey was not impressed by this as its Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said at a joint news conference with Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, in Ankara that Turkey's relations with Moscow were not an alternative to its ties with the West and neither Ankara's ties with Moscow were so weak that they could be broken by France.

The Yeni Safak editorial said Turkey's alliances with the Nato and Russia were based on realpolitik and Ankara only stood by Turkey's own interests.

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