Energy and trade, silence on Syria and the Kurds: The new alliance between Putin and Erdogan
In St. Petersburg Turkey and Russia hold reconciliation summit distancing themselves from West. Recent tensions after shooiting down of Russian jet overcome. Two leaders ready to revive the Turkish Stream project; Russians to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Divisions remain about the role of Assad and the future of the Syrian conflict.
St. Petersburg (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Economics, joint energyprojects, cooperation in the defense sector and revival of tourism. These are the main points on the agenda of talks held yesterday in St. Petersburg between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on his first trip abroad after the failed coup of July 15.
In stark contrast there was absolute silence, on the two issues on which the natiosn are divided: Syria and the role of President Bashar al-Assad, close to Moscow, and hated by the leadership of Ankara; and the Kurdish question, among the most sensitive for Turkey.
Analysts and international policy experts call the summit yesterday in the "Hellenic room" of Kostantinovskij Palace, former residence of the Tsar, a reconciliation summit - which follows months of insults and threats of retaliation – in an anti-Western atmosphere. The two leaders have put aside the tensions of recent months following the shooting down of a Russian jet November 24, 2015 in the skies over the border between Turkey and Syria, without too much trouble. Thus giving birth to an alliance that worries the United States and several Union European chancelleries.
The incident had triggered an escalation of tension between the two countries, with mutual exchanges and economic retaliation including a trade embargo, the end of the exemption of visas and air travel.
The clash also led to Russian accusations of ties between Ankara and the militiamen of the Islamic State (IS). The Ministry of Defense in Moscow actually presented "evidence" of oil traffic between the jihadists and members of the Turkish leadership. Today those allegations have been forgotten and, according to some press sources, the Russians are the very ones who “saved" Erdogan warning him of the attempted coup in progress.
The face-to-face yesterday in St. Petersburg, a closed-door meeting that lasted over two and a half hours, served to revive the old alliance. The lifting economic embargoes decided by Putin after the the jet incident in November, should be lifted in the coming hours. Hence the green light for food and Turkish agricultural products on the Russian market. Moscow is set to also reopen tourist flights to the Bosphorus, a traditional holiday destination for Russians.
On the sidelines of the summit between Putin and Erdogan a round table discussion between senior figures in the Russian and Turkish business world was also held. The talks focused on the resumption of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, which should boost the anti – Western axis between the two countries.
Putin stressed that "the project will be put in place as soon as possible", to channel 31.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey via the Black Sea. Added to this the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, entrusted to the Russian engery giant Rosatom, which is of "strategic importance" for Ankara.
Yet despite these common interests, there are still divisions - passed over in silence in the official post-summit statement - on Syria and on the Kurdish question. Erdogan continues to claim that President Assad – thus far a Moscow ally - should leave power immediately. "We have a common goal," said Putin, and that is to "settle the Syrian crisis" that is why "we are looking for a solution that can be good for everyone."
Regarding the Kurdish affair, according to some experts Moscow has ceased "flirting" with the fighting groups, committed on Syrian and Iraqi soil against jihadists of the Islamic State. Viable means of pressure in the eyes of Erdogan, to strengthen the process of reconciliation between the two countries.