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globe editorial

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has a couple of times recently complained that Turkey didn't end up with enough territory when its borders were settled at the end of the First World War, specifically in the Treaty of Lausanne.

That might seem to be just pointless, resentful grumbling, but at a time when the very existence of a state called Syria is in question – with a number of rebel factions with their own territories, and the toxic entity known as ISIS/Daesh still in play – Mr. Erdogan may be staking claims with a view to a new settlement.

An article this month by Nick Danforth in the American journal Foreign Policy rightly points out the risks of reopening the borders set almost 100 years ago. He does not accuse Mr. Erdogan, however, of planning for a vast new Ottoman empire.

Some of Mr. Erdogan's flatterers seem to be pushing the envelope, however. The borders on a few Turkish maps have suspiciously crept beyond those set by the Treaty of Lausanne. Small but unmistakable chunks of Greece, Bulgaria (in the former European lands of Thrace) have "lost" land on their the north and west.

Similarly, in Western Asia, someone has taken bites out of Georgia and Armenia. More dangerously yet, one map appears to assert Turkish spheres of influence in both Iraq and Syria.

This is particularly disappointing at a time when Greek and Turkish Cypriots are making better progress than ever toward peace, after many years of a divided Cyprus. With its ever-increasing Turkish nationalist and Islamist orientation, Ankara is most unlikely to encourage mutual accommodation on the island.

In the earlier phases of the Syrian civil war, the Erdogan government stood by passively on the Turkish-Syrian border, with a substantial military buildup, biding time, hoping that the ultra-Shiite regime of the Assad family would just collapse. But Vladimir Putin has no intention to let that happen, endangering Russia's only Mediterranean naval base.

Mr. Erdogan is risking new conflict, in a competition over the city of Mosul, between the Turkmen minority (akin to the Turks) and the Shiite government of Iraq. Instead, Mr. Erdogan should devise a constructive policy for a region that could certainly do with some peace and co-operation.

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