On June 27, 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent to Russian leader Vladimir Putin a letter, where he has finally offered his apologies for the death of the pilot of the downed Russian aircraft and expressed his readiness to settle the situation. Yaşar Yakiş, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey (2002–2003) discussed in interview with www.valdaiclub.com the prospects of Russian-Turkish relations after Erdogan's letter and the improvement of Turkish-Israeli ties.
According to Yaşar Yakiş, President Erdogan did a really good thing because there was a desire from both sides to find the way to a solution of the problem, which harmed bilateral relations. Ankara and Moscow were suffering negative consequences of this strained situation, and the letter sent by the President of Turkey only confirmed this.
Why it happened now, after a rather long period of time from the Russian aircraft incident? Turkish decision makers have come to understand that the isolation is harmful in international relations. Turkey normalized its ties with Israel. Now Erdogan is sending his message to Russian President, the expert said.
Despite Turkey and Russia do not have identical interests on certain Middle East problems, they have convergent interests and can cooperate on other issues. Both Turkey and Russia understand the need to defeat ISIS. Perhaps, as Turkey changes its policy toward Syria, it may even agree with a transition period with or without Bashar al-Assad in power.
As for a long-term economic and political cooperation between Russia and Turkey, Yaşar Yakiş pointed out, that it developed quite well, but after the downing of the aircraft this policy could not continue, as Russia decided to put an end to the compartmentalized approach and took measures that affected economic relations. Now it is clear that these economic sanctions have harmed both countries. Perhaps, after Erdogan's letter Russia could do some fine tuning in sanctions regime, and economic relations will get further dynamics.
As to “Turkish Stream” gas pipeline project, its interruption happened not because of the aircraft incident. It was the result of the attitude of Bulgaria and the European Union. They suspended it because the EU expected more projects across the member states territories. If these problems are solved in a few years, the “Turkish Stream” could be revived.
Speaking about the improvement of Israeli-Turkish relations, Yaşar Yakiş said that the US is one of the beneficiaries. Washington encouraged the improvement of relations between Turkey and Israel. It was President Obama who forced Israeli PM Netanyahu to phone Erdogan and present an apology. Secondly, Turkey’s attitude on NATO-Israel relations was also bothering the US. So the improved ties with Israel made the US very satisfied, the expert said.