Ankara’s ‘win-win’ strategy for revival

30 June 2016 16:34 (UTC+04:00)

In world, little doubt can be left now as will Turkey regain its strong positions. The Turkish president has taken crucial steps to win back its friends and push forward the country’s economy.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin garnered huge public attention in the region and beyond. World leaders, observers and even ordinary people of the two nations were certainly watching closely, as the rapprochement of the world’s two powers would shape the world’s future.

It is worth noting that before Ankara-Moscow rapprochement, Turkey and Israel have agreed to rebuild their ties that were frozen for six years, as they discovered that ‘they needed each other as both regional and energy partners’. Turkish PM Binali Yildirim said that Turkey has secured the easing (though not the complete lifting) of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. The Israeli PM stressed that the deal would boost economic ties between the two countries, which have anyway not been affected very much by the political crisis.

However while the world was in anticipation of official announcement of Turkish-Israeli deal, the diplomatic backstage was hit by another big piece of news – in his letter to Putin, Erdogan voiced his sorrow about the downing of the Russian jet by Turkish jets last November, which is the reason for the diplomatic crisis between the two countries since then.

Putin imposed sanctions on Turkey as well as suspended visa-free travel and package vacations to the country. The sanctions seriously hit Turkey’s tourism business. Reuters reported that tourist arrivals in Turkey “saw their biggest drop in at least 22 years in May, with the number of Russians down by more than 90 percent.”

Right after the letter announcement in Moscow, Ankara announced that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had accepted an invitation of his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to join the Black Sea Economic Cooperation meetings in Sochi on July 1.

On June 29, Putin called on Erdogan to condemn the Istanbul attack and express his condolences. The Kremlin announced that “both presidents stressed the need to activate international cooperation to combat the terrorist threat that poses a danger to all countries.” The Russian side named the call as “business-like, constructive, and focused”.

Following the call, the Russian leader urged the government to begin the process of normalizing general trade and economic ties with Turkey.

The Turkish side confirmed that the two leaders “underlined the importance of acting in cooperation in the face of political, economic and humanitarian crises in the region as well as taking necessary steps to revive the bilateral relations.”

The relationship between Turkey and Russia has evolved from one of cool distance to strategic proximity in a generation – lightning fast for geopolitics. High-level visits have become commonplace. Closer economic ties and large-scale collaboration on energy sphere was of a high priority.

Turkey’s olive branch to Moscow could remove sources of instability in a region replete with too many. Indeed, joint efforts can keep the region and Middle East open and safe. Ankara and Moscow need to be allies for their relationship to have the desired effect on the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday that steps taken toward the normalization of relations with Russia and Israel were based on a “win-win” principle.

All steps taken were “based on the win-win principle,” he said while speaking at an iftar, or fast-breaking, dinner in Ankara. “In other words, both Turkey and Russia must win, both Turkey and Israel must win.”

“We decided to quickly take steps regarding tourism,” Erdogan said, adding that from now on, Turkey’s borders will be open for Russian tourists as well as Russian borders for Turks.

But it’s not necessarily smooth sailing for Ankara – Moscow rapprochement, as the attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was assessed by many observers as “non-digestion” of the developments.

The terror attack is said to have a certain message, while the world’s major intelligence services and financial or political institutions may stand behind the attack as well, experts believe.

Defeating terrorism in the Middle East is impossible without cooperation with Russia, Ramazan Can, the head of Turkey's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, said.

Turkey can rely on Russia in respect of help in the fight against terrorism, the first deputy chairman of the Russian upper house’s Defense and Security Committee said, in response.

The last week of June become very busy for Turkish diplomacy, as Erdogan’s cabinet worked hard to recover from the diplomatic regression in recent years, which has resulted in Turkey losing friends in the neighborhood.

Ankara already melted ice in its ties with Moscow and Tel-Aviv, while in Turkish diplomatic circles some now talk about steps for the visa deal with the European Union, and perhaps Egypt as a more distant probability. Syria might also be in focus as Erdogan has proposed working together with Putin on “regional crises and terrorism”.

“Turkey’s real disaster are not these terror acts, but it would be the abandonment of its goals and ideals. These are what we will not abandon,” Erdogan said.

Turkey is “passing through a severe test” as “a country that is the target of the world's most bloody terrorist organizations,” Erdogan said, but he has not the “slightest doubt that we will get through terror organizations”.