Sunday

4th Dec 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.

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

News in Brief

  1. Talks on wholesale roaming rules to start
  2. Lead MEP Dieselgate committee: Italy and Slovakia will cooperate
  3. Transparency NGO sues EU commission on Turkey deal
  4. Pro-EU liberal wins UK by-election
  5. Finnish support for Nato drops, Russia-scepticism grows
  6. Cyprus talks to resume in January
  7. Documents from German NSA inquiry released
  8. Transport commissioner 'not aware' of legal action on emissions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESIElects Leaders and Sets Safety & Health at Work and Gender Equality Among the Guidelines For Next Term
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationContinues to Grow its Membership and Welcomes its Newest Member Association
  3. ACCASupports the Women of Europe Awards, Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  4. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  5. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  6. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  7. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  8. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Trasport and Mobility in Rome
  10. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  12. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security