Saturday

1st Oct 2016

Ankara and Kremlin in charm offensive

  • Erdogan is seeking to mend ties with Russia (Photo: Kremlin)

Relations between Turkey and Russia are thawing after a state visit on Tuesday (9 August) by Turkey's president to St. Petersburg.

"Turkey-Russia ties have entered into a very different and positive phase," said Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Putin, for his part, said the restoration of bilateral ties "would benefit both Turkey and Russia."

The move marks a turning point in an often fraught relationship, and a possible step away from Turkey's increasingly strained Nato allies, the United States and Europe.

Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 jet fighter near the Syrian border, killing both pilots. Russia responded with trade sanctions and suspended charter flights and package tour sales to Turkey.

The trade measures saw Turkey's exports to Russia drop by over 60 percent, some €664 million, in the first six months of this year, according to Turkey's Daily Sabah.

The Russian ban reportedly causing around €757 million in losses in the Turkish tourism sector over the same period.

The official visit to the Russian city is an effort to smooth over tensions, part of a broader Turkish policy, pre-dating the 15 July coup, to mend relations in the neighbourhood.

Erdogan also sent the Kremlin a letter where he expressed his regret for downing the jet. The half-apology appearing to have helped convince Russia to mend ties.

Tuesday's encounter with Putin marks Erdogan's first official state visit following last month's failed military coup to overthrow Turkey's government.

Yet, the two nations still remain at odds over the fate of Syria. Russia backs Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, enemy of Erdogan.

Anti-americanism in Turkey

The two share a disdain for the United States; Erdogan, in part, blames the Americans for harbouring his enemy Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey says Gulen — a Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1991 — masterminded the coup.

Turkey's government continues its purging his supporters throughout the country, despite denials from 75-year old Gulen of involvement in the coup.

Gulen has accused Erdogan of using the coup to further tighten his grip on power.

Around 16,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands detained or fired from their jobs.

Turkey wants him extradited from the United States.

On Tuesday, Turkey's justice minister Bekir Bozdag said in an interview with state-run Anadolu Agency that anti-Americanism in Turkey risks turning into hatred.

"It is in the hands of the United States to stop this anti-American feeling leading to hatred," he said.

The European Union, for its part, has not been spared from Turkey's criticisms, Ankara threatening to scrap the migrant swap deal signed off in March unless short-term visa restrictions on Turkish nationals are lifted.

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, issued the threat earlier this month in an interview with Germany's daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"If visa liberalisation does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back [refugees] and the agreement of 18 March," he had said.

The EU is determined to keep the deal, but is refusing to budge on Turkey's demands.

In an interview with Tagesspiegel on Monday, EU commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal with Turkey stood.

"I do not feel blackmailed by Turkey. We negotiated an agreement and I expect Turkey to fulfil the jointly agreed conditions. Pacta sunt servanda [agreements must be kept]. (…) If Turkey wants to obtain visa liberalisation by October, it will have to fulfil all the outstanding benchmarks," he said.

Opinion

The EU’s new offer to Africa

The European Commission’s plan for a multi-billion African investment vehicle is mainly another incentive for African leaders to give higher priority to border management.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List