How ’complete’ is normalization between Russia, Turkey?
The presidents of Russia and Turkey say their recent meeting in Moscow produced encouraging results in diplomatic, trade and economic sectors and paved the way for further bilateral cooperation. The event was of special importance, as it marked the resumption of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council meetings for the first time since Turkey downed a Russian jet in late 2015.
Probably the thorniest issue of dealing with the Kurds remains a “hidden agenda” and neither leader, rather expectedly, voiced any specifics. In a conversation with Al-Monitor, Russia’s Middle East experts were almost unanimous in their assessment of Erdogan’s major objective: to put an end to what Ankara calls a Federation of Northern Syria, a territory under Kurdish control. Referring to his sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry, a notable Russian specialist on the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, mentioned that there is an understanding that despite the pressure from Erdogan, cutting ties with Kurds is not in Russia’s interests.
“If Moscow abandons the Kurds now, it will reinforce America’s position. They [the US] have already secured some of northwest Syria with their own military infrastructure. It will also allow Turkey to seize further control of the Syrian territory.”
Ironically, the day after the meeting, Russian media outlets were racking their brains over what to make of the reported news that Turkey cut ferry services with Crimea, virtually halting the delivery of Turkish goods and food to the peninsula. The major storyline seems to be that Ankara is trying to trade some political preferences for the West, showcasing that it has a card to play in what has become a sensitive point between Russia and the West.
Commenting on the presidents’ meeting and the news on what some are calling “the Crimea blockade,” a Russian-Turkey watcher close to the Kremlin told Al-Monitor, “The current trend is definitely toward a warming of the relations because both objectively need each other. But it’s still early to talk about a comprehensive partnership.”