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Shooting of Russian ambassador highlights tense ties between Moscow and Turkey

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) attend 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dmitry Azarov | Kommersant | Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) attend 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul on October 10, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Officials from Russia,Turkey and Iran are meeting on Tuesday to discuss the civil war in Syria amid heightened tensions following the shooting of a Russian ambassador in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Andrei Karlov, Russia's ambassador to Turkey, was shot dead on Monday while giving a speech at a gallery by a former police officer who shouted "Don't forget Aleppo" and "God is greatest."

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said the attack was an attempt to undermine the country's relations with Russia, which have recently been tested thanks to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

"Thankfully, Turkey-Russia relations were already normalizing after what's been a very painful year," Michael Harris, head of research at Renaissance Capital told CNBC on Tuesday.

Whereas Russia has been supporting the regime of the Syrian president Bashar Assad, Turkey would like to see the Syrian president gone and the conflict in Syria to end so it doesn't have to deal with so many refugees escaping the war. Harris described President Erdogan as "the most hostile" to what's been happening in Syria.

According to Wolfango Piccoli, co-President of Teneo Intelligence, Monday's attack could hurt the progress made in Russian-Turkish relations.

"The attack, in the center of Ankara, will throw a wrench in the progress of a fragile Russian-Turkish rapprochement, especially as Ankara has been the main international supporter of the forces affiliated with the Free Syrian Army which have recently been forced to evacuate Aleppo," Piccoli said in a note Monday night.

"Since the rapprochement with Moscow in June, Erdogan has attempted to avoid criticizing Russia directly although the pro-government media has been outspoken in its condemnation of the civilian casualties as the result of alleged Russian air strikes in Aleppo," Piccoli added.


Monday's shooting took place while large demonstrations against Russia's bombing of Aleppo were happening outside the Russian consulate in Istanbul.

The relationship between the two countries has been fragile since a Russian airplane was shot down last year. At the time, Turkey argued that the plane had entered its airspace without authorization.

As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin halted charter flights to Turkey, hitting a Turkish tourism sector already shaken by a series of domestic terrorism attacks.

Both countries have tried to minimize the tensions, mainly since last summer, but the war in Syria has continued to divide them.

"By apologizing for Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane in November 2015, President Tayyip Erdogan paved the way for the resumption of economic ties and security cooperation between the two countries," Piccoli said.

However, it is unclear whether the progress made over the last couple of months is able to escape attack after Monday's shooting.

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