Turkey, Russia strive for ice-melting in ties
By Fatma Babayeva
Turkey and Russia are looking for ways to normalize their worsened relations which deteriorated after the Russian SU-24 bomber was shot down in Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015.
The incident was followed by harsh statements from sides shattering the traditionally friendly ties between the nations both politically and economically.
Turkey said that Russian fight jet entered to its airspace, while Russia denied its warplane flying into Turkish skies. Since then the governments could not achieve any rapprochement to move this diplomatic crisis from deadlock.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent statement in Athens on his country's willingness to restore relations with Turkey revitalized the hope for normalization. Putin said that Russia still does not understand why Turkey shot down Russian plane, and that's why, the first move should come from Turkey.
In response to this call the senior government officials of Turkey made a call for Russia to establish a joint working group to discuss which steps can be taken to restore ties between two states, reported Tuskish Daily Sabah on May 31.
“Putin says that they want to see a step. Turkey also wants to restore ties. What we say is let's form a joint working group to take these steps, and Russia can discuss and produce ideas about which steps we should take," Mevlut Chavushoglu, Turkey’s Foreign Minister said to media after the conference held in Antalya.
In his turn, spokesman of Kremlin Dmitri Peskov responded to Chavushoglu’s remarks on May 30 that no working group can tackle the question between Turkey and Russia unless Turkey takes the first step.
Referring to the proposal of Turkish officials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also affirmed on May 31 that Russia does not intend to take the initiative in settling relations with Turkey, but is ready to consider proper treatment of Ankara, reported RIA Novosti.
Turkey is very much affected. Therefore, it offers to set up some committees through various closed channels, said Lavrov.
He further added that Russia has never promised that it will hold out an olive branch to Turkey. Russia said that Turkey is obliged to apologize and compensate for the losses, which were caused by a war crime (shot down of a Russian jet), he added.
Commenting on the issue, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Numan Kurtulmush stressed that Russia and Turkey do not have insurmountable problems. He expressed hope that Ankara and Moscow will be able to resolve their disagreements in relations through dialogue in the near future.
During his interview to TRT Haber TV channel on May 30, Kurtulmush highlighted that two countries need each other and can not sacrifice each other.
Russia and Turkey are old friends, rivals and have fortified their relations, he said by reminding that relations became tense with a situation caused by the Syrian crisis.
“Turkey did not take part blatantly in this jet's being shot down. Turkey has officially expressed that it does not acknowledge the identity of the jet," he added.
Turkey's new-elect Prime Minister Binali Yildirim also said that his country would seek to normalize relations with Russia through dialogue.
Following the incident, Moscow imposed a wide-range of sanctions against Turkey starting in January, including the end of visa-free travel and a ban on Turkish food products. Moreover, Russia called its citizens to boycott Turkey as a tourist destination.
After these sanctions, economic relations between the two countries saw decline. In particular, statistics show that before the jet incident, about 1,500 Turkish companies operated in Russia in various spheres of business ranging from construction and tourism to imports of Turkish fruit, vegetables and textiles. However, currently, only about 200 Turkish firms are operating in Russia, according to non-official statistics.
Also, statistics show that Turkish exports to Russia fell to around $108 million in January, down two-thirds on the previous year.
Energy is the main Russian exports to Turkey. Russia is the largest gas supplier to Turkey.
Fatma Babayeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Fatma_Babayeva
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