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Ptolemy's Geography divided Asia on a similar basis.In the north is "Scythia this side of the Himalayas" and "Scythia beyond the Himalayas".The Balkan states, with the partial exception of Bosnia and Albania, were primarily Christian, as was the Arab zone of Lebanon.Starting in 1894 the Ottomans struck at the Armenians on the explicit grounds that they were a non-Muslim people and as such were a potential threat to the Muslim empire within which they resided.

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According to the National Geographic Society, the terms Near East and Middle East denote the same territories and are "generally accepted as comprising the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey"."Near East" applied to what had been mainly known as the Levant, which was in the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Porte, or government.Those who used the term had little choice about its meaning.The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines the region similarly, but also includes Afghanistan while excluding the countries of North Africa and the Palestinian territories.At the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire included all of the Balkan Peninsula south to the southern edge of the Hungarian Plain, but by 1914 had lost all of it except Constantinople and Eastern Thrace to the rise of Balkan nationalism, which saw the independence of Greece, Serbia, the Danubian Principalities and Bulgaria.

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