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Why Ankara feels vulnerable after Russian envoy’s murder

opinion Updated: Dec 26, 2016 21:04 IST

Turkish police officers secure the road leading to the Russian embassy in Ankara on December 21, 2016.(AFP Photo)

The heart-wrenching video of two Turkish soldiers in camouflage fatigues taken out of a cage in the desert of northern Syria and then burnt alive by ISIS barbarians alive shows how serious the challenges ahead for Turkey are. The ISIS has termed it “a payback” for Ankara’s involvement in its “war against Muslims” in Syria.

There has been a great deal of strife within Turkey this year, with a spate of bombings in several areas. Some recent terror-related incidents underscore its heightened exposure to instability caused by the ongoing security challenges in and around the country.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, in the Turkish capital, is the latest in the string of terror attacks in an already troublesome year for Turkey. In December alone, there have been three high-profile terror attacks that hit Istanbul, Ankara and Kayseri.

Turkey has been under terror attacks since July 2015 and so far 390 people have been killed and 1,350 injured. This figure does not include the fatalities caused by the Kurdish separatist insurgency in the south-eastern provinces of the country.

The country has been fighting war on terror for a long time now. It faces an increased and serious threat perpetrated by two main militant groups - Kurdish separatists and Islamist radicals.

Read: In new Islamic State video, Erdogan-critic burns two Turkish soldiers alive

In this crisis , the West needs to support Turkey in its war on terror and Europe needs to embrace it as one of its own. Turkey, which has been waiting in the wings to be admitted to the European Union, should be strengthened to showcase a modern, liberal face of the Muslim world, not an easy task given the predilections of its president. The delay in entry to the European Union and mistrust are also alienating young Turks, and a large section of society is slowly drifting towards hard-core Islam.

On the streets, there is a strong sense among Turks that the US and the European governments are using terror attacks to arm-twist Turkey to get what they want. Another popular view is that the West is fighting a proxy war against Turkey through the PKK and the Gülenist terror groups that continue to freely operate in Europe and the US.

A Eurasianist group close to President Erdoğan wants to cut its ties completely with the EU after years of being rebuffed and facing a lack of gratitude for housing millions of Syrian refugees. But they are thwarted by another group which says that Europe remains the only viable route to economic modernisation and a temporary alliance with Russia should be used to bargain a better deal with the West.

The West must realise that any increase in Islamic violence, deterioration and economic instability in Turkey would create more problems for the European countries since Turkey, with a significant Muslim base as a secular state, can act as a buffer between unstable Middle East, west Asia and Europe.

Sanjay Jha is a senior journalist.

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