2018-04-05

Turkish solitaire and tripartite summit in Ankara


The Russian president was on his first foreign visit after the election. On April 3-4, he visited Ankara, where he held talks both in bilateral format and within the framework of the ongoing Astana mechanism of political settlement of the Syrian conflict with the leaders of the leading countries of the region - Turkey and Iran. Negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were primarily aimed at stimulating strategic cooperation between Moscow and Ankara. The joint summit of the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey was devoted to coordinating efforts to reduce the confrontation in Syria.

The seventh meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council of this year has a special significance: this event takes place for the second time after the cooling of Russian-Turkish relations, which arose due to the incident with a downed plane in November 2015. The Council, established in 2010, was to meet every year, and its purpose would be to coordinate the efforts of the governments of the two countries to develop and implement long-term plans and joint initiatives of strategic importance.

First of all, the parties noted the restoration of trade volume: trade turnover amounted to $ 22 billion in 2017. The level of direct investment was fixed at around $ 10 billion, which is very small, given the significant potential opportunities that the economies of the two countries offer investors. To stimulate investment cooperation within the council this year, an agreement was reached between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Turkey on the creation of a $ 1 billion fund to invest in infrastructure, healthcare and information infrastructure projects.

However, perhaps the main topic of the meeting was the fate of the project of the first Turkish nuclear power plant Akkuyu. Since 2010, the Russian side has been trying to obtain all the necessary documents for construction. The volume of investments made at the beginning of 2018 amounted to more than $ 3 billion, while the laying of the foundation took place only during Putin's visit.

It is obvious that the project meets with a number of difficulties on the Turkish side: a buyer for a 49% stake in the nuclear power plant has not yet been found, which should be resolved soon, given the constantly changing amount of costs. Nevertheless, the Turkish side, aware of the importance of the project for the development of the national economy, wants to meet: on the eve of the meeting between Putin and Erdogan, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that the project of the nuclear power plant was granted a strategic investment status in Turkey. This will allow the project company to save about $ 10 billion (although, the calculation is made for a period of 90 years of operation).

The gas pipeline "Turkish Stream" became a subject of discussion of the heads of state. During the meeting, the parties most likely spoke about the fate of the second branch of the gas pipeline, intended for deliveries to Europe. It can be assumed that Ankara, for a number of reasons, seeks to get the second branch through its territory. On the one hand, this will strengthen its economic and political weight as the main hub of energy resources in the region. On the other hand, it will create objective opportunities for using part of the supplies for domestic consumption on favorable terms. However, the final resolution of this issue was not achieved. Obtained most of the permits for construction, the commissioning of a gas pipeline of two threads with a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters. m of gas per year is scheduled to be implemented until December 30, 2019.

The parties paid attention to deliveries of the S-400 air defense system. The Turkish side for a long time insisted that Russia not only before the scheduled start of the delivery, but also that part of the production was organized in Turkey, which implied the transfer of a number of technologies to the Turks. During the SSRT meeting it became known that Moscow met in the first question, while the issue of technology transfer was not raised at all.

Finally, Turkey once again had the opportunity to influence the Russian side in the matter of lifting restrictions on the supply of Turkish tomatoes to Russian markets, introduced on January 1, 2016 in response to a Russian fighter shot down by the Turkish Air Force in November 2015. Before the crisis, Turkey supplied 500 thousand tons of tomatoes for export, of which 80% was in Russia. Now the Russian government, while meeting Turkish producers and associated political circles, allowed to import only 50 thousand tons.

Coordination of positions on political issues, primarily on the Syrian issue, the heads of Turkey and Russia decided to hold in a trilateral meeting with the participation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on April 4. The development of events in Syria indicated the need for another meeting of the guarantor countries within the framework of the mechanism laid down in Astana in May 2017. Then the parties agreed on the establishment of de-escalation zones in Homs, East Gut, Idlib. After the launch of the mechanism on the ground, the parties again checked the hours in November 2017 during the tripartite meeting in Sochi.

And now, after a successful Turkish operation in Kurdish Africa and a Syrian operation in East Gut against terrorists and implacable armed opposition, the parties once again discussed the steps for the near future. First of all, attention was paid to the mechanism of de-escalation.

A few days before the meeting in Ankara, the Turkish military established additional observation posts in the province of Idlib within the framework of agreements with Russia. At the same time, the Syrian side managed to relocate the last large pro-Turkish grouping in the suburb of Damascus to the zone of direct responsibility of Ankara.

Obviously, the parties continue to territorially consolidate the zones of influence of the Syrian government and the opposition-minded dialogue, which will enable the guarantor countries of the agreements to better control the situation on the ground, and also to promote future political reforms.

The political process, in particular, involves the creation of a constitutional commission of representatives of government forces and the opposition. According to the Russian side, the formation of a commission with the participation of the official Damascus is in full swing, but the question of participation of Kurdish representatives still causes disagreement between Ankara and Moscow.

Turkey's military operation under the name "Olive Branch" was directed against the Kurdish Democracy Party, the largest political force of the Syrian Kurds. At the same time, Turkey would like to receive Russia's support in resolving the Kurdish issue, as well as in strengthening border security. Russia, for its part, insists that the Syrian Kurds must certainly participate in any initiatives to resolve the civil war in Syria, while not stressing the political affiliation of the Kurds.

The Kurdish problem complicates not only Russia's relations with Turkey, but also becomes the central topic of the conflict with the American military contingent in the north of Syria. Although the heads of the three countries did not directly touch on their own plans for the issue of the US military presence in Syria and their cooperation with the Syrian Kurds, it can be assumed that Russia and Turkey can begin coordinating actions to pressure the US military along the Euphrates River.


We can say that Russia, in conditions when Western countries seek to isolate it in the international arena, should give due credit to the dialogue with the most important regional players. On the other hand, such a dialogue with countries whose leaders consider the region of the Middle East as a sphere of their natural influence may prove to be a very difficult task for Russian diplomacy if it does not constantly check its steps with the interests of other players. Meetings like those held in Ankara should be used not only to resolve regional issues, but also as an argument in negotiations with Western players.

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