Ankara, August 15, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
New Moscow-Ankara axis?
By Manolis Kostidis
268 days after their last meeting at the summit the G-20 in Antalya, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met again, this time in St. Petersburg last week.
Much have transpired between the two meetings, namely the shooting down of the russian warplane Sukhoi by a turkish fighter jet near the border with Syria. From November 24 until last Tuesday, the Moscow-Ankara relations had reached its nadir. With economic sanctions and with one leader accusing the other, the two countries were trying to exercise pressure to one another.
The first step for the rapprochement was made by Erdogan even before the attempted coup on July 15. He had written to Putin and apologized for the shooting down of the aircraft. After the coup attempt though, the Turkish President openly expressed his appreciation for the support he received by Putin and a meeting was scheduled in St. Petersburg.
The two leaders are united by the pressure exerted by the West. The EU has imposed an embargo on Russia for the annexation of Crimea, while European officials criticize the Turkish President for the way he governs and for his stance on the immigration issue.
The gifts of the leaders
As a gift to Moscow Erdogan promised “the inclusion of the project for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant to the strategic projects”, a decision that will accelerate the processes and the russian company that will build it will receive a grant from the Turkish state. The total cost of the entire investment will exceed USD 25 billion and is expected to be completed in 2020.
The Russian referred to the importance of the undersea pipeline Turkish Stream, which will carry Russian gas to Turkey via the Black Sea and from there it can be extended to Greece aimed at the European market. In this way Moscow will bypass Ukraine, as well as the obstacles which had been placed by Bulgaria on the crossing of the pipeline.
Entrepreneurs seem to be the absolute winners of this rapprochement between the two countries, since the trade which in 2015 had reached USD 35 billion, this year showed a 30% drop. Putin promised to remove the sanctions on the turkish construction companies. Also positive are the messages from the Turkish hoteliers, who until recently recorded a fall of 90% in the arrivals of Russian tourist.
Putin hopes that the fruit and vegetable prices in his country will drop when imports start again from Turkey, as the EU has imposed an embargo to Russia causing their prices to soar in the internal market. Lifting the embargo on imports gives new breath both to Putin and Turkish farmers.
Also, Turkish manufacturers will begin again to participate in competitions, as before the shooting down of the russian warplane and the sanctions that followed they had an annual turnover of USD 10 billion in the russian market.
“The West is the one that pushes Turkey to Russia’s arms. Their suspicions on Erdogan. On the one hand they want to corner Turkey and on the other, when the country looks for a way out they express their reservations. I think that Europe’s problem is the absence of leadership without vision”, writes Hürriyet’s columnist Mehmet Yılmaz.
The statements of the two leaders before the rapprochement
Erdogan to Putin
“You are playing with fire when under the pretext of fighting the Islamic state you throw bombs against the legitimate opposition in Syria”.
“To block our entrepreneurs, to strike at our trucks, is like playing with fire. And I propose to Russia not to play with fire”.
“The russian aircraft was shot down according to the rules of engagement”.
“Now Putin has found a cause and in a cunning way strengthens the military ties with Syria”.
Putin to Erdogan
“Turkey has committed a war crime. Turkey will regret for what it did”.
“With the current government in Turkey it is impossible to agree, I see no possibility of the relations improving”.
“We expected the Turks to contact us for the shooting down of the aircraft. Instead they called Brussels and NATO”.
“I did not understand why Turkey shot down this aircraft. This is a hostile act”.
“The aircraft was shot down to ensure the safety of the transport of oil (pp of ISIS) to the ports, the Turkomans is a simple excuse”.