Moscow, August 10, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Manolis Kostidis
Rapprochement with careful steps
It seems that Vladimir Putin is saying “Yavaş yavaş” to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the expectations for the return of the two countries’ relations to pre-crisis levels.
The Russian president seemed to want a Moscow-Ankara rapprochement, but on the other hand has shown not to be in a hurry.
However, the two countries are trying to come closer at a time they are both pressured by the West. Moscow because of the issue of the missile shield, and Ukraine and Ankara because of the migration problem and the visa.
The meeting of the two men in St. Petersburg began with an hour delay at 2 pm and lasted about two hours. It was followed by a working lunch and at the press conference it seemed that there was a desire by the two leaders to come closer, but the shooting down of the Russian Sukhoi warplane on November 24, 2015 by Turkish fighter jets near the border with Syria, has caused distrust on both sides and it seems that it will take some time before relations are reinstated at the level they were.
The last face to face meeting between Putin and Erdogan was held on November 15, 2015 at the summit the G-20 in Antalya.
The Turkish President noted that “Russia and Turkey can rebuild their relationship anew and expand it, and stressed that there will be an increased cooperation between the two countries in the defense sector”. As a gift to Moscow Erdogan promised “the inclusion of the project for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in the strategic projects”, a decision that will speed up the procedure and the russian company that will construct it will receive a grant from the Turkish state.
Putin said that “sanctions against Turkey will be lifted step – step”, noting that the talks with Erdogan will determine future relations between Turkey and Russia.
He described as “possible” to resolve disputes with Turkey on the war in Syria and noted that both countries want to resolve the Syrian crisis.
He admitted, however, that “it is clear that the views of the two countries on Syria were different in the past”. That is why Putin and Erdogan decided to go beyond the program and talk about the crisis in Syria after the press conference, with the Turkish President extending his stay in St. Petersburg for that very reason.
Moscow is exerting pressure on Erdogan to close any passage to the Syrian rebels in order to continue the advance of Assad’s forces in Aleppo. On the Turkish side the President has in his mind the Kurdish issue and he will probably push for something in exchange in relation to this issue before he backs down.
Erdogan noted that the phone call of Vladimir Putin after the coup attempt gave him very significant “psychological support”.
Erdogan described the meeting with Putin as “beneficial”.
The Russian president said the importance of the undersea Turkish Stream pipeline that will carry Russian gas to Turkey via the Black Sea and from there it can be extended to Greece aimed at the European market.
Entrepreneurs seem to be the absolute winners of this rapprochement between the two countries since the trade which in 2015 had reached 35 billion, this year showed a 30% decline. Putin promised to remove and sanctions were lifted on construction companies.
Apart from many ministers, such as Energy Minister Berat Albayrak who is his son-in-law, Erdogan took with him the head of the Turkish secret service (MIT) Hakan Fidan.
Turkey continues to threaten the EU
“Turkey will stop implementing the Agreement on the refugee issue with the EU if Europe for its part does not give an exact date for the lifting of visas to Turkish citizens”, said Minister of Turkey for European Affairs Ömer Çelik, in an interview with Turkish TV network of Haberturk.
The same minister, who is considered one of the closest associates of the Turkish President, had described “unfeasible the requirement of Brussels for changes in the anti-terrorism law in Turkey”. However, he left a window for changes that can be made in the long-term.