On March 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in Moscow on his second official visit to Moscow after the Russian Su-24 fighter jet was shot down in the Syrian airspace near the Turkish border. Apart from meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Erdoğan participated in the session of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council. Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, pointed out that the summit was marked by “the most wide-ranging agenda”, which included bilateral economic issues and the Syrian peace process. Moreover, the conversation touched upon the investigation of the assassination of Russia’s Ambassador Andrei Karlov murdered in Ankara. The Rethinking Russia think tank interviewed orientalist Alexander Sotnichenko to learn more about the event.
RR: Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow nearly coincided with the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Should we consider these two events together?
AS: It goes without saying that summits are scheduled in advance and follow the pattern determined by the external and internal political context. Therefore, even though there are few direct ties in the triangle “Russia-Turkey-Israel”, the visits of the Israeli and Turkish leaders follow a similar logic in a way.
RR: Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow came at a period of thawing relations between Turkey and Russia and the former’s conflict with Europe. In this context, can we count on the potentially restored relations marred by the crash of Russia’s fighter jet in Turkey?
AS: Undoubtedly, Turkey’s downing of the Russian warplane brought about a serious cooling in the state-to-state relations. I personally favor closer bilateral cooperation, assuming that the two countries have the potential for reaching new heights as well as for regaining lost positions.
RR: What items of the bilateral agenda would you consider most important in the long run?
AS: I would highlight several such points. Above all, lifting Russia’s ban on imports of some Turkish agricultural products remains the pressing issue. Secondly, visa-free travel of Turkish citizens to Russia will be of crucial importance. Finally, strategic matters of economic collaboration, including the Akkuyu NPP construction and operation project, the return of Turkish construction companies to the Russian market, space cooperation and a series of military and technical programs, can be addressed simultaneously. And, more significantly, Erdoğan’s and Netanyahu’s trips to Moscow are both united by the need to have the Syria conflict resolved. I would like to reaffirm my commitment to closer cooperation between Russia and Turkey which has every reason to emerge.
Photo: Mikhail Metzel / TASS