More than six months later, Turkey finally apologized to Russia for the plane shot down in November 2015, and the dead pilot. There is a view that the apologies were a bit late, but according to Valdai Club contributor, Head of the Center for Energy Security Studies at the International Strategic Research Organization (USAK) in Ankara, Hasan Selim Özertem, for Turkey, which is going through a transitional period, this step toward improving relations with Russia was very timely.
According to Özertem, there are several reasons for why Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized to Putin now. The first is the change of government in Turkey.
“The new Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım said that Turkey will have more friends than enemies as a foreign policy. Right now we are seeing the repercussions of that change in policy. It started with Israel, now it continues with Russia,” Özertem told valdaiclub.com.
The second reason is that internally, Turkey is going through a transitional period, which has necessitated a reduction of external risks.
“On the other hand, we may say that in the last couple of years, Turkey has distanced itself from the “zero problems” with neighbors” policy. As a result, there are some economic and political consequences of this change. As we see, Turkey is paying a high price in its tourist sector and problems with exports,” Özertem added.
Third, security issues have become a major issue for Turkey, not only abroad, but also domestically.
“There are also security concerns, apart from economic issues, in Syria, the issue of Daesh, the PKK, and as a result, Turkey wants to be among the stakeholders in the Syria crisis. Israel is one of them, Russia is another, so Turkey wants dialogue with both to protect its interests in the region,” Özertem said.
Other than that, some Russian experts noted that Turkey’s new government is a chance for the country to normalize its relations with Russia.
“We remember that Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu took responsibility for the downed Russian plane,” Özertem said.
“In his letter on Russia Day, Erdogan expressed hopes that Russia-Turkey relations improve, which indicated that the peak of the crisis has passed. Now that Vladimir Putin, the Russian government and Russian society have heard from the Turkish president what they wanted to hear, we can expect a reply from the Russian side,” he concluded.