Friday

20th Jan 2017

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.

Kerry to EU: Believe in yourself

Outgoing US secretary of state gives EU short pep talk from Davos, hailing its peaceful and economic success. 'It's worked, folks', he said.

Moldova turns from EU to Russia

Moldova's president said he would like to scrap an EU treaty and has started preparations to join a Russia-led bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey