Breaking the siege

Wednesday, 2018-08-22 11:12:16
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, August 14. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - Turkey is taking steps to improve its relations with Russia and France and cool down the tension with Germany and Greece, as well as adopting policies to deal with the US in the “economic war”. Relations between the two allied nations in NATO intensified when US President D. Trump criticised Turkey for not acting “as friends”.

As relations with the US are falling into “boiling water”, Turkey is actively opening new directions to ease the tensions that are pushing the country to the brink of a crisis. Accordingly, for the first time in the history of bilateral relations between Russia and Turkey, the Russian Foreign Minister delivered a speech at a recent meeting of Turkish ambassadors and permanent representatives at international organisations in Ankara. On the occasion, representatives of Moscow and Ankara signed an agreement to promote the strategic partnership and concerted positions on a variety of regional and international issues. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara has never supported the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the US. And in return, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov appreciated Turkey’s independent foreign policy and also criticised the new sanctions imposed by the US administration against Turkey.

The warming of the relationship between Russia and Turkey is expected to pave the way for trade cooperation, helping Alaska to compensate for the damage caused the US sanctions. In the first five months of 2018, bilateral trade between Russia and Turkey reached US$11.4 billion, an annual increase of 46.2%. The two sides are working to remove trade barriers and take into account trading in local currencies. The two countries also stepped up their efforts to realise the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. An agreement on providing S-400 air defence missile system with Russia is also in place. Ankara is “turning its back” on its allies in NATO, which is highly offensive to the US.

According to some experts, the crisis in US-Turkey relations has become an opportunity for Ankara to promote cooperation with many other partners. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron to emphasise the importance of developing economic and trade relations as well as promoting investment. The two countries' finance ministers agreed to work closely together to strengthen their bilateral cooperation and meet each other on August 27 in Paris. Meanwhile, Turkey seems to have made a "shift to the East", especially targeting China, in order to overcome the current difficult situation. The Turkish President announced a new alliance with China, Iran and Russia to cope with economic pressures from the US. At the recent meeting with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Turkish Foreign Minister pledged not to allow any activities targeting or opposing China in Turkey.

Turkey is, however, expected to maintain a long-standing relationship with the European Union and avoid a comprehensive confrontation with the West. The relations between Turkey and Germany have been improved recently, especially after Turkey released German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in February. Ankara has also recently reversed its decision to ban German journalist Mesale Tolu from leaving the country while she awaits trial on charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation. Tensions in the unlikely relationship between Turkey and Greece were also cooled down. Greece is to resume confidence-building activities with its neighbour Turkey after Ankara released two Greek soldiers.

President Tayyip Erdogan cast a recent currency crisis as an attack on Turkey's economy, no different from a strike against the flag or a call to prayer, taking a defiant tone in his address at the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival. In an effort to overcome the crisis, in addition to monetary, financial and economic policies, the Turkish President is promoting diplomatic channels to strengthen cooperation with other countries; even including those that Turkey had previously experienced tensions.