Ahmet Davutoglu

Protest in Istanbul, Jan 2014 (Getty Images)

According to the Turkish proverb, if you spit down it gets in your beard and if you spit up it gets in your moustache. In other words, it’s a mess either way – and that pretty much sums up the state of EU-Turkish relations as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, prepares to visit Brussels on Tuesday for the first time since June 2009. Read more

Happier times? Syrian President Bashar al Assad, right, and his wife Asma, second left, with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine in Bodrum in August 2008

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time – just four years ago – when the leaders of Turkey and Syria could meet with their wives at a sunkissed beach resort, smile, share a meal, and discuss ‘regional peace efforts’. Things are different now. On Thursday, the Turkish parliament voted to authorise the deployment of troops in Syria; a response to the firing of a Syrian shell that killed five people in a Turkish border town. The incident in Akcakale brought to the surface months of simmering hostility between the two countries. While Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, insists he does not want to start a war, the situation is volatile, and even small moves in the coming weeks could reverberate across the region.

In the FT

  • In this analysis piece from September 24, the FT’s Turkey correspondent Daniel Dombey takes an in-depth look at how the turmoil in Syria has sent shockwaves through Turkey’s economy, domestic political scene and unsettled its relations with neighbours and allies. “The poison let loose by the fighting in Syria… has seeped across the countries’ 900km border.”
  • Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, famously declared he would pursue a “zero problems with the neighbours” policy – and for a while, this seemed to work. In this opinion piece from June, Gideon Rachman argues that the aspiration “has now been displaced by a real world in which Turkey in fact has awkward relations with most of its neighbours: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Israel – foremost among them.” In particular, Erdogan’s increasingly vocal criticism of Assad’s handling of the crisis has shaken Turkey’s already delicate relationship with Iran.

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