The assassination of Andrey Karlov will not herald a downturn in relationsby David Barchard / December 20, 2016 / Leave a comment
When Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey who was gunned down at an Ankara art gallery opening on Monday evening first arrived in the country in 2013, Turkish-Russian relations were still locked in a post-Cold War chill. His term of office was turbulent. Relations between Ankara and Moscow went through some very bad moments, particularly after Turkey shot down a Russian jet last year.
But Karlov was one of the architects of a revolution in international affairs which has probably permanently transformed the eastern Mediterranean in favour of Russian strategic interests.
Though Russia moved ever deeper into Syria, checkmating Turkey’s original aspirations to evict President Bashar al-Assad and set up a Sunni government in that country, Karlov kept Russian-Turkish relations warm at a time when Turkey’s view of the United States was becoming ever more unfriendly. He was, Turkish journalists recalled after his death, friendly and personable towards the Turkish media in a way that his predecessors had not been. Binali Yildirim, Turkey’s prime minister, declared in a voice shaking with emotion that Karlov had been a true friend and helped him in the task of piloting Turkish-Russians relations back to normal this summer and autumn.
The outcome of Karlov’s work as a diplomat was a burgeoning strategic partnership between Turkey and Russia, which was crowned on Tuesday this week, the day after Karlov’s murder with a tripartite agreement in Moscow over the future of Syria between Russia, Turkey and Iran, a deal which cuts out the United States and which the Russians would not have dared hope for a year ago.
The three countries will now act as guarantors of a settlement to the Syrian civil war in which the west has no part. Turkey will presumably act as the sponsor and patron of the Syrian Sunni opposition, encouraging the feuding and anarchic rebel groups to coalesce into some kind of coherent authority under its protection. It is a signal triumph not only for the Russians but also for Turkey, even if it falls well short of its original goal of a united and Assad-less Syria. The United States…