Ankara, June 17, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Manolis Kostidis
Once again friends with Moscow and Isreal?
Important changes are coming in Turkey’s foreign policy, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan leading the country to realism, as it is widely accepted that that there isn’t a neighbouring country with which Ankara does not have problems and conflicts. First objective the restoration of relations with Israel and Russia.
The initial step was to change the whole “backbone” of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The general secretary Feridun Sinirlioglu who was in that position since 2009 was removed, while the same goes for the representative of the Foreign Ministry Tanju Bilgic. Also relived from their positions were all deputy general secretaries of the Foreign Ministry. All of them close associates of Ahmet Davutoglu. Of course these changes were made for Erdogan to show that something changes in the country’s foreign policy.
Followed by the letter sent by Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the national holiday of Russia. In the letter, the Turkish president expressed his desire “for the two countries’ relations to reach the point that they deserve”.
Moscow’s answer did not take long to come, through the Kremlin spokesman. Russia has made it clear it wants to “restore relations but has specific conditions”. Putin has stated that he asks for compensation for the shooting down of the Russian fighter border at the border with Syria and also demands an apology by the Turkish government.
An important step is also considered the presence of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, at Iftar, the dinner in Ramadan, organized on Wednesday by Erdogan in the presidential palace in Ankara.
The fact is that despite the strained Russia-Turkey relations, the two countries did not recall their ambassadors.
Erdogan is noting that the tourism industry in Turkey is collapsing, since the drop by 90% in the arrivals of Russian tourists has already resulted in the closure of many hotels. There are also delays to the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, a project that has been undertaken by Russia and has great importance for the energy independence of Turkey.
Putin knows that because of the EU embargo to Russia, due to the Crimea issue, the Turkish construction companies are the only ones that can contribute to infrastructure projects, as they have been doing for many years. He is also aware that Turkey can provide directly the fruit and vegetables that Russia cannot purchase from the EU countries. The embargo imposed on Turkey by Putin himself has tripled the fruit and vegetable prices in Russia as it struggles to find suppliers. Another important fact is that Turkey, after Germany, is the second largest consumer of Russian gas.
As such, in the coming months the two countries will look for common ground, something that Ankara states at every opportunity. Last week Putin had made it clear that “he has not excluded the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline”.
The Agreement with Israel is ready
Erdogan has also made a policy change with Israel as well. Since 2010, he has been declaring that he will go to Gaza, but has not done so yet. Already, the former General Secretary the Foreign Ministry F. Sinirlioglu had consecutive contacts with Israeli officials. In Ankara they think it is likely that the agreement of the rehabilitation of the two countries’ relations will have been announced by the end of June. The agreement provides for the payment of compensation from Israel for the victims of the ship Mavi Marmara, which had been boarded by Isreali commandos, and for which Netanyahu has already apologised to Erdogan, and for the way humanitarian aid will reach the Palestinians. Ankara demanded the lifting of the embargo, but it seems that it has accepted to send humanitarian assistance, which will be receive by Israel and in turn distribute it to Gaza through humanitarian organizations.
The restoration of relations with Tel Aviv is important for Ankara, as if it proves successful it shifts the balances in the Mediterranean, Cyprus and the Syrian front. The most important area of common interest is the natural gas of the Mediterranean, which the Israeli officials have expressed thoughts of transporting to Europe via Turkey, without anyone excluding the gas of Cyprus.