Even though it is too early to say that cooperation with Russia will turn into a strategical partnership, it is possible to mention that common interests of Ankara and Moscow are coming closer and the public opinion in both countries supports these developments.
The trilateral summit that took place in Ankara between Turkey, Russia and Iran drew all the attentions to this region. The US-Turkey standoff over Manbij after the Afrin Operation in Syria against PKK/PYD has causes some uncertainties. On the other hand, after the London-Moscow crisis following the incident with former Russian intelligence officer Sergey Skripal and his daughter poisoning with irritant gas, bilateral deportation of diplomats reinforced the tension between the Western countries and Russia. The major topic at the summit was Syria as well as Akkuyu nuclear plant and purchase of S-400 missiles. Despite Trump’s surprising statement about withdrawal of American soldiers from Syria, CENTCOM reinforced their troops in the Manbij region.
The Trilateral Approach: a New System for Syria’s Future
The trilateral summit of the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which took place on April 4 in Ankara, is extremely important, believes Vladimir Avatkov, Senior Lecturer at Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The fact that the first visit of Vladimir Putin since his election was paid to Turkey shows that Russia great values the relationship with this country and demonstrates how it plans to build its priorities, the expert said in an interview with valdaiclub.com.
Moreover, the Ankara summit, where certain agreements on Syria were reached, will practically contribute to Geneva negotiations. Turkey’s traditional policy as “a bridge between the East and the West” will continue. By emphasizing territorial integrity of Syria, the leaders of Troika expressed the opinion that the ongoing cooperation will be kept in order to ensure permanent peace in the region. The hosting President Erdogan said: “We have made negotiations that will shed light on the upcoming period and determine the next steps”. Erdogan indicated that Ankara would not stop until all the regions under the control of YPG, seen as terrorists by Turkey, become safe. He also stated that Turks are ready to cooperate with Russian and Iranian allies for making the Tell Rifaat region a livable place for Syrians. Russian leader Putin told that his primary goal is to ensure Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to remove the terrorist groups from there. Putin pointed out that Russia has collaborated with Turkey in this direction and expressed hope that this collaboration will continue. President Rouhani said that he wants the collaboration on Syria to be acceptable for everyone and pointed out that the map of the region cannot be changed under any circumstances. The three presidents agreed to create “de-escalation zones” to reduce fighting while backing belligerent sides in Syria. Most importantly, the parties decided to provide humanitarian aid, urgent medical assistance and even hospitals to restore the Syrian economy and civil infrastructure.
What Putin’s Visit to Ankara Tells Us About Russia’s Relations with Turkey and Iran
On April 4, the Turkish capital Ankara hosted the presidents of Iran and Russia, who, together with their Turkish counterpart, held the second trilateral summit of Astana Process on the Syrian settlement. Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Turkey the day before to attend the seventh meeting of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council.
Can we say that these extraordinary developments started a new phase in cooperation between Russia and Turkey? As mentioned above, the fact that Putin, who was elected on March 18 with a strong public support by taking 76.6 % of the votes, made his first official visit abroad to Turkey, a NATO member state, in a period when tensions between the West and Russia are running high, could be interpreted as a critical message to the Western countries. Common serious steps by Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan may result in new changes in the future. First, the building of the Turk Stream gas pipeline and Turkey’s Akkuyu first nuclear plant, with a cost of 20 billion dollars, strengthened cooperation and trust between Ankara and the Kremlin. In the security field, another critical message of this meeting was the closer delivery of S-400 missile systems. While giving place to comments that Turkey continues to distance itself from the Western alliance, some experts suppose that Ankara and Moscow have initiated an anti-Western alliance. Despite the United States’ sanctions threat to Turkey, Erdogan’s emphasis on not stepping back about the S-400 could be seen as a significant message. Even though it is early to say that cooperation with Russia will turn into a strategical partnership, it is possible to mention that common interests of Ankara and Moscow are coming closer and the public opinions in both countries support these developments.