US and Russia 'will go to war' unless proxy Syria conflict resolved, Turkey warns

The Cold War superpowers broke off biltateral talks on Syria following the bombing of a UN aid convoy near Aleppo last month which the US said amounted to a 'war crime' 

Thursday 13 October 2016 10:26 BST
Iraqi soldiers supporting the government driving an armoured tank in Najaf as part of military parage to review equipment for the planned assault on Mosul
Iraqi soldiers supporting the government driving an armoured tank in Najaf as part of military parage to review equipment for the planned assault on Mosul (AFP/Getty)

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has warned that the “proxy wars” in the Middle East between the US and Russia could signal the reemergence of world-wide conflict between the two Cold War superpowers.

The complex five-and-a-half-year long Syrian civil war is on the brink of becoming a “wider regional war,” he said in an interview with state-run Anadolou News Agency on Wednesday.

“If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war,” Mr Kurtulmuş said.

Talks between the two nations broke down following the bombing of a UN and Red Crescent convoy during a ceasefire on September 19. Relations between Russia and the other permanent members of the UN Security Council have also deteriorated over Russia's role in backing renewed Syrian government air strikes which are decimating rebel-held neighbourhoods in Aleppo and elsewhere across the country.

Mr Kurtulmuş called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “pawn” in the wider context of the conflict and said his removal from power is necessary for lasting peace.

Turkey has become increasingly drawn into the conflict in neighbouring Syria since launching a military operation to remove both Isis and Kurdish militias from border territory in August.

The Turkish and Iraqi governments are also currently at loggerheads over the role Turkish troops should play in the upcoming US-backed offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, back from the terror group’s hands. Ankara, which has been training Sunni militias ahead of the battle, is worried about Baghdad’s reliance on Shiite militias in the push to liberate the Sunni-majority city.

The Iraqi government in turn has demanded its troops play a central role and that Turkish forces should remain on base during the operation.

On Tuesday Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan warned of “blood and fire” along sectarian lines if the complex military operation is not executed correctly. The US has issued pleas for the two governments to resolve the spat, fearing the assault to liberate Mosul could be negatively affected by the infighting.

Millions in need of aid as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul

How the battle is handled has significant implications for Iraq’s future, but recapturing the city would be a significant blow for Isis.

In the Syrian crisis, international delegations are meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland this weekend - without representatives from either the Syrian government or opposition - to try and resurrect a path to peace in the multi-sided conflict.

More than 400,000 people have died and four million displaced from their homes in over five years of fighting, the UN says.

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