Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

Why Putin and Erdogan agreed on a fresh start

Arabic-language writers say pragmatism drove Ankara and Moscow’s recent reconciliation
Russia says the new relations with Turkey would be based on “strategic common denominators in the economic sector”. Alexei Nikolsky, AP Photo via Ria Novosti
Russia says the new relations with Turkey would be based on “strategic common denominators in the economic sector”. Alexei Nikolsky, AP Photo via Ria Novosti

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a summit in St Petersburg last week – their first meeting since they fell out over the downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey’s air force last November.

“On the eve of the summit, the Turkish press leaked what was dubbed as ‘secrets’ of the diplomatic talks which led to the reconciliation between Moscow and Ankara,” said Lebanese columnist Mohammed Kawwas in the Arabic daily Al Arab.

The writer said the leaders were obviously in a hurry to complete the formalities so they could delve into the bigger issues. There was a “sly conspiracy” between both leaders not to allow the details of the Syrian conflict to interfere with their goals.

Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak has announced that the countries had agreed to build the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, meaning that there could be no more hiccups in their relationship.

Consequently, the new relations would be based on “strategic common denominators in the economic sector” and this would require mutual respect of their agendas and concerns.

Mr Erdogan revealed that the volume of economic exchange between the countries had reached $35 billion (Dh128bn) before falling to about $27bn following the downing of the jet.

“One has only to look at post-crisis figures to conclude the huge extent to which both countries are economically intertwined and the latent potential to reach Mr Erdogan’s $100bn target,” Kawaas concluded.

“Only then can an observer understand the joint economic stakes involved as well as both countries’ preparedness to forge agreements, even regarding Syria, towards reaching the highest levels of investment and growth rate revival.”

Saudi commentator Abdul Rahman Al Rashid said that the moral rules governing relations between countries differ from those that dictate human relations, because interests outweigh principles in the former case.

Writing in the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Al Rashid said that Mr Erdogan undoubtedly saw the need for his country to get closer to Russia and other countries because of looming dangers.

“Kurdish separatists are threatening Turkey’s security and integrity, and a growing number of Syrian refugees are lining up at the borders of the country, not to mention that ISIL reached the heart of Ankara and Istanbul and the recent coup attempt that shook the country,” the writer said.

Al Rashid noted that a Russian boycott of tourism to Turkey had had a big economic influence on the smaller country, and that Ankara had turned to Moscow for economic reasons, not because of the failed coup.

“What is said about Ankara being forced to reconcile with Moscow for fear of a possible Russian attack is not plausible because Turkey is a member of Nato, which ensures joint defence for all its members,” the writer said.

“The only plausible explanation for Mr Erdogan’s reconciliation with his opponents is his desire to strengthen his negotiating position and minimise the risks of international and regional conflicts on his country. He undoubtedly hopes for a peaceful settlement in Syria to be reached at a later stage, most probably after the US presidential elections.

“Mr Erdogan wants to shorten the distance with the Russians even if he has not succeeded in doing so in Syria. At least he is serving his country’s interests in other fields.”

Al Rashid said there was political courage in Mr Erdogan’s actions.


Updated: August 16, 2016 04:00 AM