Erdogan in Kiev .. What role does he play to reduce tension? What are his options for Russia and Ukraine?

Ankara- The turbulent atmosphere of war in the skies of Ukraine did not prevent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from flying towards it, but this visit opened the door to questions about the nature of the role that Turkey could play to reduce tension, and the extent to which it benefited from the Russian-American attraction.

Questions are also raised about Ankara’s fears that the conflict will push it to face two bitter options, namely to stand on the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who holds several economic and military cards linked to Turkey, or on the side of the traditional Western allies whose patience is running out.

After Erdogan’s arrival in Kiev, he stated that he is closely following the tension between Russia and Ukraine, expressing his country’s support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Erdogan’s visit comes on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the start of relations between Turkey and Ukraine, as the tenth edition of the high-level strategic council meeting will be held with the participation of the presidents of the two countries.

In turn, the Turkish Foreign Ministry confirmed – in a statement – its non-recognition of the “illegal” annexation of Crimea by Russia, while in the Donbas region (eastern Ukraine), it supports finding a peaceful solution in accordance with international law.

On January 21, Erdogan announced that Ankara was ready to mediate to defuse the tension between Russia and Ukraine.

advanced economic relations

According to data from the Turkish Statistical Authority, Turkish exports to Ukraine amounted to $2.1 billion in 2020, and rose to $2.9 billion in 2021, an increase of 43%. While imports increased by 87%, from $2.59 billion in 2020 to $4.52 billion in 2021.

The volume of trade exchange between the two countries amounted to $4.68 billion in 2020, and rose to $7.42 billion in 2021, achieving a significant increase of 67%.

Turkish reports stated that if a free trade agreement is signed during Erdogan’s current visit, the volume of trade exchange between the two countries will rise to 10 billion dollars within two or three years, pointing out that the visit will witness discussions on defense industries.

Turkey exports to Ukraine steel, ships, yachts and their services, air-conditioning sector products, paper, forestry products, automobiles, tobacco, vegetables and fruits, in addition to products of the defense industry.

Signing of bilateral cooperation agreements between the two countries’ foreign ministers in the presence of the two presidents (Anatolia)

Turkish role

The Turkish researcher in international relations, Taha Oda Oglu, told Al Jazeera Net that President Erdogan’s visit to Ukraine at this time represented a major development and qualitative shift in Turkish-Ukrainian relations, in its circumstances and data, which had witnessed over the past seven years important developments that accompanied the signing of historic agreements on various levels.

On the nature of the role that Ankara can play to reduce tension, Odehoglu stressed that Turkey’s rapprochement with Ukraine does not target Russia, which views military cooperation between Ankara and Kiev with suspicion, but this did not prevent Turkey, with its good relations with Russia and Ukraine, from offering and practicing mediation. between the two sides.

He added, “While Ankara is moving steadily on the path of developing its relations with Moscow, it is on a parallel line that firmly adheres to its position of preserving Ukraine’s territorial integrity and finding a peaceful solution to its differences, aware of the pivotal role that Kiev plays in ensuring stability in the Black Sea region, according to saying.

The Turkish researcher pointed out that Turkey sees the Ukrainian crisis and the Russian dispute with the West as an opportunity to test its soft power, and to show the Western camp – especially the United States – that it can be a strong party to deal with a sensitive issue in the region that is related to Russia and tightens its noose around it in the waters of the Black Sea. .

He believed that Turkey would thus win a strong negotiating card with Washington, which is dissatisfied with Erdogan’s policies in more than one file in the Middle East, to ease pressure on it, especially at the stage of the internal conflict between the Turkish government and the opposition before the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for 2023.

Basil Hajj Jassem: If Putin wants to back down from military action against Ukraine, he will accept the mediation of his friend Erdogan (Al-Jazeera)

complicated situation

“Given the nature of Turkey’s close relations with the two sides of the crisis, Russia and Ukraine, it has no choice but to play a mediating role and maintain an equal distance between them,” said Basil Haj Jassem, a researcher in Turkey’s foreign policy and Caucasus affairs.

Hajj Jassim added to Al-Jazeera Net that the Ukraine crisis today and the experiences between Moscow and Washington in this particular file may be an opportunity for Turkey to re-test its relations with the United States, which have been damaged in recent years and this is linked to many files.

However, he added, “But Turkey cannot go far towards the United States and anger Russia, because Ukraine’s importance to Russia cannot be compared to any of the other files that witnessed a kind of collision in attitudes between Ankara and Moscow.”

The researcher pointed out that Erdogan is trying to present himself as a mediator between Moscow and Kiev, benefiting from his personal relations with Putin, as well as from his country’s growing partnership with Ukraine.

“But Russia has many reservations about this role, because it does not see itself as a party and considers that the crisis is internal Ukrainian, that is, between the republics that declared their independence unilaterally and the authority in Kiev, and also because Turkey has become a major supplier of drones that Ukraine may use against Russia’s interests.

The researcher in Turkey’s foreign policy believes that if Putin wants to back down from military action against Ukraine, he will accept the mediation of his friend Erdogan.

He stressed that Turkey today is in an unenviable position, and its position will become more complicated when any military actions begin between Russia and Ukraine, because a neutral stance will not satisfy both sides of the conflict as well as NATO.

Haji Jassim added that Ankara’s fear is justified, because its standing by a party means great losses, indicating that today it is not in a position to take risks and align itself with any party, even if NATO, which had previously failed it in several situations, including when it shot down a Russian plane. 2015.

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