Leader comment: Syria tragedy an accident of war

Russian President Vladimir Putin has apologised after a Russian airstrike mistakenly killed at least three Turkish soldiers in Syria. Picture: Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has apologised after a Russian airstrike mistakenly killed at least three Turkish soldiers in Syria. Picture: Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP

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In a country as troubled as Syria, the slightest act can have international repercussions, rendering an already volatile situation even worse.

It is only two years since Turkish F-16s downed a Russian jet near its border with Syria after it refused to leave Turkish airspace despite repeated warnings.

That action drew the ire of Moscow. The Russian defence ministry insisted that the aircraft had remained within Syria’s borders throughout its mission, and in typical fashion, it responded with a threat of force.

Russia immediately deployed S-400 anti-aircraft missiles at Syria’s Hmeimim airbase, weapons capable of striking targets up to 248 miles away; in other words, they could travel as far as Turkish airspace.

The event and its aftershocks were to prove a worrying flashpoint and led to strained relations between the two countries. It is therefore understandable that many the region might be holding their breath after yesterday’s developments, where a Russian warplane launched an airstrike on a building in Syria where Turkish soldiers were based, killing at least three.

In ordinary circumstances, it would not be surprising were Turkey to react angrily, despite Russia’s insistence that the strike was an accident.

Fortunately, the torrid events of 2015 have passed and led to the two nations repairing their relationship. In December, they brokered a ceasefire for Syria, while the following month, they sponsored peace talks in Kazakhstan.

Yesterday’s tragedy is an unfortunate example of the risks of war and we should all be grateful there will be no repercussions.

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