Putin and Erdogan: “The lives of our men mean enough for these two ‘tough guys’ to be engaging in conversation.”

November 30, 2015

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Today, Vladimir Putin will have the opportunity to meet with Recep Erdogan at the global climate change conference in Paris. I assume that they have things to discuss, and Putin should not shy away from this meeting.

Whatever my personal opinion of President Putin, he is still my country’s representative. Whatever my personal opinion of President Erdogan, who is responsible for the deaths of our service personnel, a conversation with him would help to ensure that thousands of new victims are not sacrificed at the altar of “Putin’s Afghanistan.”

We should not be seeking to satisfy our ambitions, whether personal or national – what we need to find is a long-term solution to the problem. This entails an overhaul of the entire political infrastructure of the Middle East, including its political boundaries, carved out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by the British nearly a century ago.

It’s time to redraw the map. We should be talking, at the very least, about a deep federalisation of Syria and Iraq, which would guarantee national self-determination for the largest religious and ethnic groups in the region. One way or another, this is something we will have to do, and it’s a process that will be overseen by Russia, Turkey, Iran, the United States, Britain and France, with Persian Gulf monarchies also involved.

And we must present a common front against the Islamic State (ISIL), all other factors notwithstanding, including Russian (and Turkish) authoritarianism, the annexation of Crimea (which nobody is about to recognise), and the war in the Donbas (which nobody is about to vindicate); we must do this because ISIL is a threat to all. But then there can be no provocative bombing of Syrian Turkmen, who are being defended by Turkey, nor provocative attacks on jets that pose no threat to Turkish security. We have to look for a compromise.

And not forgetting the issue of the Crimean Tatars, who also enjoy Turkish patronage, which is one that merits discussion as well.

The lives of our men mean enough for these two “tough guys” to be engaging in conversation. We will know before long what is more important to them – ambition or people.

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